birding, birdwatching, Black-headed gull, Common tern, Gadwall, Lapwing, Marsh harrier, Oystercatchers, Ringed plover, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, sheep, Shelduck, Skylark, Sussex Wildlife Trust guided walk
I celebrated my birthday, with my friend Jill, with a quick morning romp around the bird hides at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, followed by an afternoon Sussex Wildlife Trust guided walk around the inland part of the reserve, including a peek inside the normally locked Camber Castle. And what a superb day it was!
I’ve already blogged about one of the highlights, the gorgeous Avocets and their chicks; another was hearing, and catching a fleeting glimpse of my very first Cuckoo. Here are a few more (not so crisp) photos of the wonderful (but mostly distant) wildlife we saw: Common terns, Skylark, Oystercatchers and Dunlin, Black-headed gull, Ringed plover, Gadwall and Shelduck, Lapwing and a Pied wagtail, Marsh harrier, and a number 72; plus, not pictured, Redshank, Coot, Cormorant, Tufted duck, Mallard, Little ringed plover, Grey heron, Kestrel and Whitethroat, as well as the more common birds. A birthday to remember!
That title sounds like something from a James Bond movie, sorry, but the sentiment is true enough. I’m referring to the White-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) I saw hanging out with a flock of Greylags during my recent visit to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in Sussex (on the left in the photo below).
The ‘white front’ in its name refers to the white patch on the front of its head around the beak and, as you can see, it’s quite a bit smaller than the Greylags, though its diet is similar: grass, clover, grain, wheat and potatoes.
These birds don’t breed in Britain but geese from two separate races frequently over-winter here; the birds with orange beaks breed in Greenland, and those with pink beaks, like the one I saw, breed in Siberia. The Greenland birds tend to over-winter in western Scotland and in Ireland, while the Greenland birds prefer southern England. They’re usually only seen from October through to March but the ranger said this one appeared with this flock of Greylags and has stayed on at the reserve with them. Maybe it doesn’t like the cold!
Awesome is a much overused word but I feel my use of it here is justified – I truly was in awe of these most beautiful birds, seen at the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in East Sussex last Saturday.
The Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is one of Britain’s conservation success stories, hence its use as a logo by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. After years of being killed for food and taxidermy and having its eggs robbed by collectors, the Avocet disappeared from its British breeding sites around 1842, and it wasn’t until 1947 that just four pairs were rediscovered breeding in Suffolk. Incredibly, this was, in part, due to the Second World War: damage from an exploding bomb had inadvertently recreated their ideal habitat of shallow ponds and muddy islands near the seaside at Havergate and, at Minsmere, where the coastal marshes had been flooded to prevent enemy troops invading, shallow ponds also formed when the marshes began to dry up.
Further breeding sites have now been created and protected (at Rye Harbour, with electric fences to deter predators like foxes and badgers) in suitable areas around Britain’s coastline, and the number of breeding pairs is estimated to be around 500. Long may their success continue!
On the first full day of my short break in East Sussex, my friend Jill and I enjoyed a long walk around the fabulous Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, which, along with Dungeness, encompasses the largest coastal shingle area in Europe. Former gravel pits now filled with fresh water together with salt-marshes and saline lagoons provide the perfect habitats for a huge number of birds, as well as both common and rare species of plants and insects. I was in biological heaven!
The species in my photos are just a very small selection of what you can see: Black-headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and an unidentified small brown wader; Geranium sp; Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare); Little egret (Egretta garzetta); Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus); Curlew (Numenius arquata); Pied wagtail (Motacilla alba); Large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae); Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus); a plant that looks like a dandelion but isn’t (!); Wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum); Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo); Yellow horned poppy (Glaucium flavum); Coots (Fulica atra); Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) and rather raggedy Red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterflies; Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus); and Marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis).
For a wander around the landscapes of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, check out my Sconzani blog post here.