Aug 062019

Nineteen members of the group managed to negotiate the closures of the M20 for our trip to this excellent Reserve.    Established as a Local Nature Reserve in 1970, three years later the ‘Friends of Rye Harbour’ group was formed, over the years these members have played a major role in funding and giving voluntary support to the Reserve.

Whilst Rye Harbour Reserve has become a flagship model for what can be achieved on a reserve, the management of the 475 hectare site always consider it to be part of the huge ‘Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay’ Site of Special Scientific Interest.   This whole area is, in turn, part of an international partnership which works to protect habitat for migrating birds, known as Ramsar wetland and Natura 2000 sites.

Common Tern with Chick  (© Terry R)

If you have visited the area, you will know that there are shingle ridges pushed up by wind and tides, within these ridges are saline lagoons, saltmarsh, grazing areas with ditches and ponds, gravel pits and reedbeds.   With such a special mosaic of habitats it is probably no surprise that over 4,500 species of plants and animals have been found here.

So with all this in mind you would expect to find something rather special . . .  and we definitely did today!

Walking along the main track along the River Rother we were soon strung out as various small groups spotted their own personal highlights, for some it was butterflies, and although a cloudy day, several species were found including gatekeeper, red admiral, comma, clouded yellow (much to Pete’s chagrin), and at least one painted lady.

Terns are always great to see and along with the common terns which were present in good numbers there were still a few sandwich terns loitering on islands in the scrape.   We had the distinctive call of common tern overhead most of the day.

Oystercatchers (© Steve C)

Sadly overall, terns had not been very successful this year with little tern nests being predated on the beach, which coupled with finding insufficient food for their young, led to nests being abandoned and adults leaving on migration quite early.  Lets hope they are more successful next year.

Large flocks of oystercatcher contained both adult and young birds, most were resting as the tide pushed them off local feeding grounds but the occasional squabble broke out.   Before we reached the end of the track three wheatear were found, along with flocks of linnet and several families of pied wagtail.

Much time was spent with telescopes scanning the scrapes for waders and we found common redshank, curlew, ringed plover, greenshank, turnstone, dunlin (some still in their breeding plumage and some without), a distant wood sandpiper, and curlew sandpiper caused some excitement as migrating species are always great to see.

Picnic on the Beach (© Sue H)

Over the pools we watched large flocks of sand martin moving westwards, maybe they were beginning their migration, feeding up before the long journey south.   Little grebe and great crested grebe shared the pool with many gulls, cormorants a couple of grey heron and little egret.

Before we got to the Lifeboat Station we cut along a path inland, here we added some excellent sightings of common sandpiper,  little ringed plover and my personal bird of the day, wood sandpiper.   There seem to be quite a few of this last species dotted along the east coast at the moment, so it was lovely to see one on our day out.

Wood Sandpiper (© Sue H)

In the scrub and hedges along the back of the scrapes we were into lesser whitethroat country – not all of us were lucky enough to see it, but we all got good views of a family of blue tit feeding in elders and along the side of one of the barns.   There was also a family of blackcap with either female or juveniles keeping close together as they fed in the trees.   Common lizard was spotted before we moved back towards the beach so we could end at the final two hides from Denny hide we had close views of common tern and their young, black-headed gulls with chicks, more common sandpiper, distant grey plover completed our list there

The final hide added at least another seven little egret to the tally, and one had colour rings which we have reported and await information on.

Just to show that it wasn’t all birds! Here’s a common lizard

Common Lizard (© Terry R)

Thank you to all those who attended and made the day so enjoyable and to Terry and Steve for the excellent photographs.   As there were so many of us, I know I have only scratched the surface of the different things seen, so please feel free to send your sightings by making a comment below or on the facebook post.






If you would like to read more about Rye Harbour follow this link:

For more information on the Friends of Rye Harbour, follow this link:

Points to remember for our next visit:

  1. The ice cream shops/vans close at 4.00pm!
  2. Don’t leave your rucksack in the hide – Sue beat Malcolm 2-1 in this competition!   Thanks to the kind people who reunited us with our belongings.


  2 Responses to “Rye Harbour”

Comments (2)
  1. Good to see so many people at this lovely reserve enjoying the weather and wildlife.Work is underway building the new visitor centre and that hopefully will bring in more people / revenue. I agree with you Sue, the Wood Sandpiper certainly is special and good photo too. Nice report and thanks for leading.

  2. Rye Harbour is one of the best reserves that our group visits and the new saltmarsh areas are a great addition. I would not have taken the route around the reserve that you chose for us – in which case I would have missed the wood sandpiper! What a cracking bird and my best ever views of this species. So I am glad I followed. Although we did not see them very well this time, I do like seeing the breeding wheatears at Rye. I know they breed there but it always surprises me. Good trip.

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