An extraordinary lighting storm yesterday late evening and night began over the sea from the SSE. Then set in far to the north, with flickering bursts of sheet lightning and occasional aerial bolts for a long time. Then a further and stronger storm over the Channel with remarkably frequent lightning, not very much rain and few thuderclaps. Insects at North’s Seat and HCP appear to have been undeterred by the storm.
Walking along the prom today spotted an adult Kittiwake passing eastwards close inshore. I went on the Pier but did not see any other sign of migrating birds. However as I was leaving I saw an unfamiliar insect on the deck and managed to get some pictures (above). It reminded me very much of a Nyssonine wasp but I noticed the awl-like ovipositor and antennae of a Sawfly. From the information available online I was confidently able to identify it as Xiphydria camelus. A female, a hymenopteran known as the Alder Wood-wasp.
After my recent sombre post about Swifts I must report that numbers have now built up to 30 from the window. I hope this is the beginning of a resurgence here.
Another recent sighting from the window was of a pair of Little egrets migrating eastwards, flying very low, perhaps because of showery rain in the strong ne breeze that day. Also a young male Peregrine ‘bouncing’ a hapless Buzzard that came over the Town.
Yesterday evening from my window looking across the Victorian terraces beyond the Railway line running below the gardens that takes the trains eastwards out of Hastings towards Rye and Ashford. The Swifts are making a last stand here in one of their heartlands. After the arrival of a single one evening, then three birds the following day, numbers built up to 12. But this was exceeded yesterday when I managed to assure myself that there were at least eighteen present. Birds have been wheeling and diving, circling and mating, since their arrival. A larger Swift-like form spotted as I tried to count the Swifts, moving steadily eastwards over the town, proved to be a first Hobby. The Hobby falcon has done well in recent decades. This spring however there have so far been few reports locally.
In the 1930s Wood warblers were nesting annually in Alexandra Park. In the Beech woodlands along the Ridge there must have been numbers of additional pairs. Marsh Tits were numerous throughout the local woodlands here in the 1970s, even breeding in Thorpe’s Wood and Summerfields in the town itself and common on and beyond the Ridge. When we lived on the ridge in the cold winter of 1971 there were Tree sparrows and Meadow pipits in the garden and Yellowhammers were widespread in nearby farmland. We found two pairs of Grasshopper warblers nesting at Little Ridge Avenue, where Sedge warblers and Cuckoos were regular in the spring. On a walk from the Ridge to Hastings Town centre Spotted flycatchers were nesting widely, six pairs often counted by the time you reached the town. Spotted flycatchers and Pied wagtails nested throughout Alexandra park, both species nesting together in the ivy of the Bowls Club building near Queens Road, an area where Hawfinches were resident into the 1960s.
Swifts and House martins were in great number, the former wheeling in flocks of 60 or more over Queens Road. House martins gathering over St Helens Wood in the summer were in hundreds.
Cycling from Ashford to Rye in the early 1970s, on a September day, I was dismayed to come aross dead Yellow wagtails frequently along the roadside. As the car traffic has increased, the invisible toxins in the air and soil, the electronic noises and waves, so the small vital spaces and niches have been emptied by our expanding and intensifying artificial human world.
Off Marina from 9.40 a small number of migrating birds noted before, despite an incoming tide, it soon became very quiet in a strong and gusty NNE wind. A female Marsh harrier struggling in low over the sea along with four Swallows. A Common sandpiper, 11 Dunlins, 3 Sanderlings, 2 Whimbrels and a Brent goose passing eastwards.
Red kites were seen at Telham and Battle yesterday.
Some pictures from Battle and Hastings in recent days. The tractor with hydraulic crane and log cradle is ideal for woodland coppice work, light enough to travel on the forest ways without rutting the ground.
The Longhorn beetle Rhagium bifasciatum perched on Bramble as I walked below Pines. It soon took flight.
The St Marks flies have had a tremendous season. At North’s Seat there was another emergence today of hundreds around Oak saplings near Mill Lane. At Barley Lane adult Starlings were cramming beakfuls of the flies from Hawthorn blossom. Bibio marci was certainly in large numbers last week although other species in the Family are also swarming. Starlings have been foraging in the pastures for the pupae of these and of other insects such as Craneflies and then hurrying back towards their nests, often within urban areas away from the fields.
Little sign of further bird arrivals, although House martin and Swallow numbers locally have improved and a dozen Swifts from the window yesterday evening, all local nesting birds.
The weather hot again. Light coastal breezes and a look out from the prom yesterday afternoon saw a party of three Avocets flying up-Channel, followed by three Great crested grebes.
Returning home to find more Swifts had arrived, up to ten together and some at least are mating pairs.
An afternoon watch from 12.40. Beachy Head becoming hidden by haze and hot with a cooling E breeze. At first there was some passage but it came to an end before too long although I continued to 5 or so.
Black tern 3, with two together and one amongst Arctic terns, Arctic tern 17, Common tern 3, ‘Commic’ tern 27, Oystercatcher 10, Bar-tailed godwit 23, Whimbrel 12, Sandwich tern 32, Black-headed gull 4, Great black-backed gull 10, Herring gull 11, Common gull 6 and Kittiwake 4.
Early May insects are thriving in the warm sunshine. St Marks Fly Bibio marci and others in the genus Bibio have appeared in numbers, dancing over the Hawthorn and other blossoms. Today at Pebsham there were many Orange-tip butterflies on the wing and a male Brimstone was spotted passing along a stretch of hedgerow. I spent a while trying to record insects along one short stretch. The Red-headed Cardinal Beetle on a sprig of Cow Parsley was noted. The larvae live under the bark of trees but the adult beetles are predatory and hunt insects on flower heads. Also seen was the Bishop’s Mitre Shieldbug the larvae of which feed on unripe grass seeds and the hoverfly Xanthogramma citrofasciatum the larvae of which are associated with aphids in ant nests.
Yesterday during a walk in Alexandra Park the Mirid Bug Harpocera thoracica was seen on a leaf below an Oak, the host tree of this Bug.
Hundreds of cuckoo Nomad bees were patrolling at both places, searching for their Mining bee host nests.
Some very poor weather again recently but the sun out again now. Oaks beginning to leaf out. A first Sand martin at Covehurst today along with an increase in Swallows and a House martin. Wheatears have continued to pass through with several in the fields on the 1st, when Alan recorded a Bee-eater at the Coastguards.
Some sea-watching from the marina although not much passage recorded.