Caddisflies (Trichoptera) don’t often get a look-in on this site but this one’s a bit special, dwarfing most of the moths in my trap in Rye this morning. The pot lid is 5 cm (2 inches) across. There are nearly 200 British species and Phryganea grandis is the biggest – this is the larger female. Although they fly deceptively like moths, there are many differences such as hairs rather than scales on the wings, palps on the head and no proboscis for feeding. It’s on the Rye Harbour list but I don’t know how common or widespread this species is in Sussex.
Yesterday and today I’ve been recce’ing routes around East Guldeford Level, walking tracks along old embankments, across sheep fields and around arable land. As evidence of their great decline, in over 10 miles I found just 2 pairs and 6 other male Yellow Wagtails, 4 Corn Buntings (two pairs?) and a single pair of Tree Sparrows. Even Skylarks were few and far between, and only Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings seem to be holding their numbers. Other wildlife of note included close encounters with a Fox and a Hare, 2 Painted Ladies, 2 Red Admirals and a pair of Mute Swans with 7 cygnets.
Or to use its proper name, Mote Place, the remains of a spectacular moated medieval manor house west of Iden – wonderfully tranquil and full of wildlife. Today I counted c.30 White-legged Damselflies at their main local colony, almost all whitish immatures. 50+ Azures, mostly mature males, were on land but there were 200+ pairs on the water with the females egg-laying. Two Blue-tailed, 2 Variable and 4 Red-eyed plus 2 pairs in cop completed the damselflies, and dragons were 3 Hairy Hawkers, 3 Downy Emeralds and 2 Four-spotted Chasers. Additional species seen on the walk were 5 Large Red Damselflies and 5 Broad-bodied Chasers.
Well, it felt like summer! This afternoon I found 3 Holly Blues on the cherry laurel just coming into flower at Playden Church, plus one in a holly at the end of Love Lane, Rye. I can’t remember ever seeing Holly Blues in March. But not the first in Sussex - one was at Chichester on 22nd, with a few others since. Typically hard to photograph, fluttering high, landing in the sunshine and folding their wings; the gleaming silvery-blue underwings ‘burn out’ on the image. Anyway, my first ‘emergents’ of the year and a true sign of spring.
Every morning lately this male Bullfinch (and his mate) have been entertaining us from our kitchen window in Rye. The bins are on the table first thing! A pair have frequented the Military Road gardens for some years but have only recently been coming to our feeder. We must be using the right seed mix.
Today my first 4 Wheatears, all males, were on a sandy/gravelly patch of the Rother saltings opposite the sewage works, with 23 Avocets on the mud bank opposite. And yesterday, 2 Small White butterflies in my Rye garden were my earliest ever by 11 days.
A fine, calm and sunny morning, with 6 Red-throated Divers on a flat sea, 59 Whitefronts, 4 Pinkfeet, 13 Brents, 4 Ruddy Ducks, a Peregrine, 3-4 Buzzards, 11 Avocets on Carter’s flood, and a Short-eared Owl behind the pools.
On Thursday morning I found this large water beetle in my moth trap in Rye, length 36 mm. Although similar to the common Great Diving Beetle (Dytiscus marginalis) illustrated in Chinery’s Collins Pocket Guide to Insects, there were notable differences, so I searched for Dytiscus beetles on the web and found that it matched a female D. dimidiatus, the Thick-horned Diving Beetle. In March 2000 the Interreg II Project published a major report, The Coleoptera of Rye Bay, by Barry Yates and P.J. Hodge. This said that Dytiscus dimidiatus is confined to a few areas of ancient wetland including the Somerset and Gwent Levels, Wicken and Woodwalton Fens, the Norfolk Broads, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay. In Britain it is now classified as Near Threatened. In Rye Bay the first record was at Northpoint in 1950 and there were only four more up to 2000, but Brian Banks tells me that he now finds it annually at Dungeness, New Romney and East Guldeford, so it seems to be spreading.
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A walk from Rye to Northpoint this afternoon produced a good variety of waders on the river mud, including my first four Avocets of the year, two each of Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits and a Grey Plover, as well as the usual Curlew, Redshank and Dunlin. The gull flock on the main lake included a Med Gull with a partial black hood.
As often happens, some of the geese on Pett Level this afternoon were walking down behind low banks, making a full count very difficult. Among the hordes of Greylags and Canadas there were 4 Pinkfeet, 25+ Whitefronts and perhaps as many as 200 Brents. There were two Black-tailed Godwits among 100 Curlew near the pools, which held two Ruddy Ducks (male and female). Lastly, the gull flock on the sea by the village included my first two Med Gulls of 2012, just one day earlier than last year. For me, that’s the first sign of spring!