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From the Clifftop

Weekend highlight from the clifftop was a family of four young Ravens and one adult overhead, the voices of the juveniles much more "squawky" than the gruff adult. Presumably reared on the cliffs here. Also on Saturday several Mediterranean Gulls calling high overhead, and the welcome re-appearance of the singing male Stonechat, which I hadn't seen for some time.

Moth trapping continues to be hopeless during this endless run of cold nights, catches in single figures only, the best being a second Mullein Shark.

Something of a run of good birds in RX land over the weekend, with a Terek Sandpiper at Rye Harbour NR on Saturday [but not early Sunday when I went], and at Dungeness a Bee Eater on both days , Hoopoe on both days and a splendid Kentish Plover yesterday-this my first at Dungeness since 1989. [pictures of all these are on the Plodding Birder website]


Weights Wood - Scarce Woodland Insects

Whilst carrying out a breeding bird survey of Weights Wood, Northiam, we got rather distracted by an array of some pretty scarce woodland insects. First was this spectacular crane-fly Ctenophora pectinicornis, a species whose larvae feed in dead and diseased wood.

Hornet queens are out in force at the moment and two more were found feeding at a sap run at the base of an oak. Nearby a hornet grabber (Conops vesicularis) male was present. This large conopid fly is an endoparasite of hornets and females hunt for hornet queens this time of year as they emerge from their overwintering sites.

Queen hornet feeding at sap run (photo: Ian Phillips)

A huge pile of sandy spoil at the base of a path-side bank highlighted the presence of a communal nest burrow of the big-headed mining bee (Andrena bucephala). Numerous males were also present swarming around sunlit scrub nearby. The females of this solitary species share a common burrow entrance and females were seen queueing up to get in and out of the burrow entrance.

But the highlight was the presence of two freshly emerged female, and one male, long-horned bee (Eucera longicornis) at the wood entrance. Inland populations of this nationally scarce UKBAP species are very scarce and this record pretty much confirms the species is breeding in the Great Dixter area after previous singleton records in 2016 and 2017.

Male long-horned bee (photo taken in 2016 by Ian Phillips).

We are going back to Weights Wood tomorrow to do some proper entomology!

Andy Phillips


Litter Heroes

Our monthly beach clean will be taking place next Wednesday 23 May - meet at 10am at the Rye Harbour car park. Join us to help remove litter whilst walking, talking and wildlife watching.


Rye Harbour

Highlights during todays breeding bird survey at Castle Water were spoonbill, great white egret and male red-breasted merganser (it seems to have taken a liking to a pair of great crested grebes in lieu of its own kind). I actually missed the spoonbill which Mike Russell, who was in the hide at the time, took great delight in telling me was behind me at one point! The survey itself turned up no surprises, though it was nice to hear three lesser whitethroat, one in the scrub by the hide and a couple just to the south, and bearded tit pinging away near the viewpoint. Elsewhere on the reserve whimbrel and little ringed plover were in the field to the south-east of the barns, while grey partridge were seen in the field to the west.


From the Clifftop

A brief look at the sea this morning turned up 3 Whimbrels and 2 Greenshanks going east, while the moth trap was a a lot better after a hazy night. The previous  two clear nights produced just 2 and 3 species, so 19 last night was pleasing, in fact the most this year, these included Lunar Thorn, Buff Tip [pictured], Spectacle , Mullein Shark and Peppered.

A Red Kite flew over our Winchelsea allotment yesterday-the third this spring.