Trip reports

Weekend outing to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on February 1st 2014

Oystercatcher wading in shallow water

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Ten Croydon Group members braved a strong buffeting sou'westerly and frequent heavy squally showers (occasionally laced with hail) to enjoy the winter birdlife on this enormous Sussex Wildlife Trust coastal reserve. Recent flood protection works have produced many additional ponds and scrapes here and, given that our visit followed the wettest January ever and coincided with a high spring tide, it was unsurprising that we seemed to find water everywhere! Unsure of the flood situation over towards Castle Water, we decided to limit our exploration mainly to the shingly expanses of the Beach Reserve. As we passed Lime Kiln Cottage, lots of ducks and waders were evident out on Flat Beach, with Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Lapwing and Curlew particularly prominent - together with some rather bedraggled rabbits! Turning into the wind on the beach road and forming a phalanx at times to make progress against the gusts, we eventually reached Denny Hide (lunch, Little Egret, Avocet and distant Spotted Redshank), Parkes Hide (many Little Grebe), and then Crittall Hide. This latter viewpoint was the most rewarding of the three, nearby islands in Ternery Pool being jam-packed with roosting Golden Plover, Knot, Dunlin and Sanderling, as well as a few Ruff and Turnstone and single Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover and Redshank tucked in amongst them. The usual flock of Oystercatcher was hunkered down on the bank nearby and a hunting Marsh Harrier was spotted over towards Narrow Pit. Our next stop was in the lee of the Lifeboat House as another fierce shower passed - but the big waves and flying spray weren't at all good for sea-watching and we noted only a couple of Herring Gull struggling by! Scanning across the end of Long Pit proved much more productive and we soon found Great-crested Grebe, a male Scaup, two female Long-tailed Duck and around six Goldeneye (including both genders) among the Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck and lots of the commoner dabbling ducks. Heavy clouds in the Hastings direction suggested that more general rainfall was imminent and so we allowed the near-gale now at our backs to speed us back down the track to the Martello Tower and car park. Conditions hadn't been great for passerines and just small parties of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Greenfinch had been encountered, in addition to the Mistle Thrush singing from a treetop near the tower and ignoring the wind and wet as true stormcocks - and keen birders - do! (53 species recorded in the day).

John Parish