20 members of our group met at Rye Harbour for our annual walk around the reserve this Saturday. The reserve was established in 1970 by East Sussex county council and it was not until late 2011 when the management responsibilities were transferred to Sussex Wildlife Trust. It is a reserve of varied habitats which support a great variety of wildlife species.
It was a lovely sunny morning that greeted us on arrival along with the songs of blackcap and whitethroat, all before leaving the car park. Along the main track dunnocks were flitting between bushes and skylarks sang from on high. Our first views over the more recently made scrapes yielded oystercatchers, avocets and redshank all busily feeding or sitting on potential nest sites.
Further on we were aware of common terns flying over our heads to fish in the river Rother, and ringed plovers that were running about on the shingle ridges, perhaps with young. The first hide looks out over a scrape and flat beach area. We were offered further views of ringed plover, shelduck, lapwing and some very smart wheatears. Rye is one of the only places in the south east where wheatear breed, the remainder going further north.
The beach reserve is also known to be very good for an array of shingle plants such as sea kale, viper’s bugloss and yellow horned poppy, and we were not disappointed. Rye is also one of the few places to go to see little terns, alongside their larger cousins the common and sandwich, but far less numerous sadly of recent years. The reserve cordons off areas on the shingle which is protected by predator fencing and entices the little terns to nest there by placing decoy birds on the shingle. We did not see any evidence of this working this time but were lucky enough to see a few fishing off the sea shore.
We spent lunch time looking over the ternery pool where lots of common and sandwich terns, alongside black-headed gulls, nest. After lunch we decided to walk towards the old lifeboat shed and then inland around the reserve. Passing more scrapes and pools giving us views of little and great crested grebes, tufted duck and pochard. Meadow brown, small tortoiseshell and small heath were all seen flying and a cuckoo was heard, and seen by some, quite close by. A very smart reed bunting sat aloft a reed to sing to us as we passed along the track heading back round towards the two hides we had missed out earlier. From these we had great views of black-headed gull and common terns with young.
Time to head back for that much needed ice cream at the end of the day but not before seeing more avocets with young on the newer scrapes and a mediterranean gull flying over our heads. Another great day out at a terrific reserve. Thanks to Sally for the photographs.