Trip reports

Rye Harbour Reserve (Leader Warren Mann)

Rye Harbour Reserve (Leader Warren Mann)
Herring gull head [Grahame Madge]

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

When I reach the roundabout at the far end of the A2070 I always wonder should I turn left for Dungeness, or go straight on for Rye Harbour, as both can provide wonderful bird watching. On a brightening early summer morning eight of us opted to go straight on for Rye Harbour. As we assembled in the free car park we saw the first of many herring gulls, some on chimneys, others sitting on the tarmac and one perched on the roof of a car. I wondered if it would leave a calling card. There were house sparrows, wood pigeons, black-headed gulls and crows around, together with a great black-backed gull on the Martello tower.

As we made our way down the track, in addition to the every day "garden" birds the highlight was good views of a parachuting meadow pipit, and we heard a skylark. We got fairly distant views of avocet and saw flying cormorant and greylag. The first hide added Canada goose, Sandwich tern, redshank, tufted duck and ringed plover, with many black-headed gull chicks present, which were the cause of some confusion when it came to identification. The highlight was Judith seeing an attack by a raptor which put all the gulls up. She ran out of the hide with the rest of us trailing behind to see peregrine making-off with a chick clutched in its talons.

As we made our way around the reserve we saw shelduck, and on a little diversion towards the River Rother we got lovely views of ringed plover and turnstone. We also ventured on to the beach, but we only added dunlin to our list. Before we reached the next hides, we saw several stock doves in flight. We first went in to the Ternery Pool Hide and amongst the many black-headed gulls (plus numerous offspring) and Sandwich terns, there were good numbers of Mediterranean gulls plus a pair of Egyptian geese and single coot and grey plover.

Crossing the track to the Quarry Hide we found more black-headed gulls and saw that all the many terns were common. Despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise, we could not find any little or Arctic terns. We were interrupted in our labours by another bird watcher calling out somewhat unhelpfully "The spoonbill has just disappeared around the corner" - and that is where it stayed. It transpired that a member of our group had briefly seen a large white something or other partially emerge from cover but had not realised what it was, so at least they got a retrospective tick. The rest of us had to be content with mute swan, little grebe and little egret.

We moved on from the hides to complete our circuit, and first saw several skylarks, and a perched linnet. As we made our way along the trail through the scrub we saw singing reed bunting, chiffchaff and whitethroat, and heard sedge warbler, Cetti's warbler and chaffinch. Two of us may have had a glimpse of a spoonbill, for as we walked past a small pond in the reed bed we saw the back end of a very large white bird disappearing rapidly into the reeds. As it folded its large wings they were seen to be pure white with a narrow black edge. A perusal of Collins' Guide in the car park shows this to be characteristic of juvenile spoonbill, but who knows...

Whatever, our four-hour stroll, mostly in early summer sunshine, had provided very pleasant bird watching, and we had seen or heard 47 species. Going straight on at the roundabout had proved a good decision. The star birds for me were the large numbers of both common and Sandwich terns.

Warren Mann