Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Tuesday 21st
Today I was going to try for the squacco but since it wasn’t seen yesterday I went to Rye instead.  Rye was the first place incorporated into Greater Kent mainly because I normally visited Rye when I went to Dungeness. The advantage of Rye beinging in Kent is that you don't have to worry about what you see on Scotney.
I arrived at 7.00,  parked up in the Rye Harbour car park then walked the full circuit – View Point, Castle Water, Long Pit, Harbour Farm then back along the sea front to the Ternary pool and the Quarry.
At Rye Harbour itself it was nice to see that many of the common birds were still common – house sparrows, thrushes (mistle and song) black bird, linnet and several swifts were hanging around the church. Onto the View Point and whitethroat, reed and sedge warbler were added to the day list, a gt spotted woodpecker flew past and a couple fo grey herons could be seen. Several families of bearded tits have been reported but they weren't on show this morning. From the View Point the way to Castle water takes you across sheep pasture lined with reed beds. There were a lot of reed buntings in the reeds (whereelse I suppose?) and in amongst the sheep there were several pied wagtails and a lone yellow wag:
Yellow Wagtail
At Castle water a Cetti’s  warbler was singing and a male marsh harrier went past. On the water tufted, mallard, wigeon, swan (a lot), a black swan, grey lag and Canada geese plus hundreds of cormorants – the latter being both on the water and in the trees. Coots were also well represented. On the wader front all I could find was a few redshank, 50+ lapwing and 10 avocets which was a bit of a disappointment. Water levels are a couple of  feet down on normal and there are a lot of islands showing so habitat is there for them. The fishing was still good with one guy having just landed a 7+ lb tench.
The path from Castle water to the Long Pit takes you through a stand of gorse and scrub hence more linnets plus goldfinch and chaffinch, then through a small wooded area where blackcap, chiffchaff and green woodpecker were seen.
Long pit did not have much of interest – mainly swans and coots though house martin, swallow and swift were all seen there. On land more of the common warblers plus a flock of 8 green finch and a kestrel was hunting the field between long pit and the sea front.
The rest of the day (till 2.00pm) was spent around the Ternary pool and the Quarry in the hides and on the sea front roadway.
The black-headed gull chicks are now flying though several adults still appeared to be sitting on nests. There are a lot of Mediterranean gulls there but they nest a little way off and I couldn’t see what was going on with their young.
Mediterranean Gull

Common and Sandwich terns were constantly bringing sand eels to the colonies showing that warm water is not detrimental to sand eel colonies despite what a lot of people (especially commercial fisherman) would like Joe public to believe. A lot of terns appear to have taken up residence on the Quarry – I think the ternary pool could be suffering from overcrowding!
After a while I went along the sea-front road and found the little terns where they were last year – the most I saw in the air at any one time was 10 but I was told there was ~ 20 around. A word of warning for anyone going to look at them – the decoys are out again so don’t be fooled:
Not quite little terns

Little Tern with tiny sand eel.

The little terns were bring back what appeared to be small sand eels though I couldn't see any chicks. The Sandwich terns in contrast were bringing back monsters.
It was whilst watching the little terns that the sun started to come out so I tried took pictures but the results were a little disappointing. It was about 1.00pm by this time the sun was directly overhead so often the bird was in its own shadow. I also went back for some Sandwich and common tern pictures but these too suffered from shadows. ( overall my photographic efforts were pants and this is the only excuse I could think of!).
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Rye really does seem to get a lot of things right with respect to bird breeding with substantial colonies of oyster catcher, Sandwich, common and  few little terns plus black-headed and med gulls all thriving. In addition lapwing and ringed plover breed. A significant reason for this success is the vast area that is fenced off so preventing disturbance. The fences don’t look very pretty but they work.
 A lot of new excavating has gone on at Rye over the last few years with a number of new fresh water pools being opened inland of the Ternary pool and down by Harbour farm. This winter/spring the main effort has been preparing an area to generate a salt marsh – almost opposite Lime Kiln Cottage. The ditches to let the sea water in and the scrapes have been prepared all that’s required is time.
Also around the site they have been removing the top soil that has been accumulating to ensure the shingle ridges don’t disappear.


  1. Great post Steve, I visited Rye last Tuesday and my visit was very similar to yours. Just like you my photos also were pants hence the reason for none of my being put up on Flickr also the number of Dragonflies were low around the pits and castle water. I nearly got caught with the decoys!!! Regards Mike

  2. Nice to see somewhere ''getting it right'' for the breeding birds Steve. :-)

  3. Nice post Steve, like the flight photos, I am quite excited about the 'development' at Rye, it will be interesting to watch it's progress.