Archive for Rye Harbour NR

Rye Harbour NR Discovery Centre

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on July 3, 2017 by cliffdean

This is perhaps the biggest wildlife-related project under development in our area! We’ve been working on it for a couple of years now, with Sussex Wildlife Trust staff, architects, engineers, consultants and fund-raisers, to design and build a replacement for Lime Kiln Cottage that will invite, inform and enthuse many more of our incredible 300,000 visitors a year.

Prior to submission of the planning application later this month, we are holding three public consultations over the next fortnight, details of which are below.

Do please come along to learn more about the project and to lend us your support.

Tuesday 4 July
2pm – 5.30pm
Rye Harbour Village Hall, Rye Harbour Road, Rye Harbour, Rye, TN31 7T
Tuesday 11 July
2pm – 5.30pm
Winchelsea New Hall, Rectory Lane, Winchelsea, TN36 4AA
Thursday 13 July
2pm – 5.30pm
Rye Town Hall, Market Street, Rye, TN31 7LA


Always a winner

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 23, 2017 by cliffdean

Not a long walk at all – just over 4 miles there & back, but the route from Dogs Hill to Halpin Hide passes through such a range of habitats that it never fails to deliver a number of species it would be hard to find in many other places in the county. Birds of Shame still remind you, however, that it’s not a zoo and a tantalising sense  of chance remains. Yesterday we missed common but typical BoSs such as Bullfinch (but they’re always in the same place!), Kestrel & Marsh Harrier (no so common elsewhere but here should be reliable). All the  same we found 76 species on a cold,dark, drizzly morning.

Migrants were at last a notable feature of the walk,with a good deal of time spent listening to and trying to get a look at Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common & Lesser Whitethroat, Reed & Sedge Warbler. There was a Willow Warbler too, but a bit distant and feeble. We found flocks of Whimbrel feeding quietly on dry pastures as bubbling calls from above announced the arrival of further groups. Less expected was a single Curlew flying along the beach – most have by now departed.

Yelping calls of Med Gulls are such a part of the spring scene at Rye Harbour that it was hard to distinguish them as migrants apart from flocks of pure-winged adult corallini passing off-shore (with dark lines of Common Scoters flying beyond them) and although we had no luck in seeking out Lesser Black-backs on the roof of the caravan site club-house, a handsome pair settled for a while at Castle Water. I wasn’t sure what to make of a pristine pair of Common Gulls floating on The Ocean since the main northbound population went on north some weeks ago; were these late or thinking of sticking around to breed?

In the hide, another group pointed out to us a large brown raptor sitting with its back to us in the willows opposite which they thought was an imm Peregrine. Though at first unconvinced,  I had to agree with them once it turned to show its facial pattern. A Buzzard sat nearby, half-hidden in the leaves.

On the way back across the ridged grasslands we were treated to great views of a pair of Brown Hares and as we followed the fenceline looking for Corn Buntings, 3 Wheatears – all with differing plumage – jumped up out of rabbit holes.

The pools of West Nook Marsh were disappointing since the muddy margins are all overgrown by Crassula, offering little to the waders that should be dropping in there. Not even a Redshank.

Choosing to walk back along the shingle edge rather than the road, we came across a Ringed Plover and some confiding Turnstones but then the passing Swallows were joined by a few House Martins and as we watched them, a Swift passed across our field of view, way,way up.

Needless to say, the sun came out shortly afterwards.


The tail-end of Storm Doris

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 26, 2017 by cliffdean

Strong SW winds determined the course of today’s RXbirdwalk (from the relief of one sheltered spot to another) and our observational abilities, since we found it hard to keep our binoculars steady. It was quite cold too. And although I like to boast that this walk usually gets more than 60 species (usually more than 70 and in fact up to 85) today’s tally was a lowly 53, thanks to little birds sensibly keeping their heads down, roaring wind drowning out calls and a rough sea hiding most birds which might be floating upon it.


Details of upcoming Reserve map by Pete Smith of Picturemaps

Having made all those excuses, the walk was not without reward, starting with a trio of handsome Fieldfares feeding in the lee of bushes right beside the path at Winchelsea Beach. Emerging from a near-birdless (but sheltered!) Beach Field to scan The Ocean, I noticed a small grebe with a white front bobbing out in the middle but soon diving, never to resurface.

“Did you say a Little Grebe?” “No, it was a small grebe.”

(You have to make that clear because capitals – which would make it a proper noun – can’t be heard. There are two main schools of thought about writing species’ vernacular names: a) all words capitalized e.g. Lesser Black-backed Gull b) no capitalization except when proper nouns are involved e.g. Dartford warbler, Bewick’s swan. The latter is the convention adopted by SWT and The Times. It’s generally no problem, though it make species harder to pick out when you’re scanning a page, but ambiguities can occur, mostly with “little”. In a recent Times article advising a walk around Rye Harbour a sentence began, “Elegant terns hovered over the water…” Were these terns just elegant – or were they Elegant Terns, a very rare species in Europe and one that would see a good few people jumping into their cars and heading south-east. Capitalization would eliminate the ambiguity. To be honest the latter case would merit caps & bold: ELEGANT TERNS. (!!! too))

Anyway, once a grebe reappeared near that spot it was a brown and fully capitalized Little Grebe. So I must have imagined (blame the wind) the white front……HOWEVER, on the way back, I spotted it again, spending more time under than upon the water, slowly,slowly, closer and closer..a Black-necked Grebe. Vindication.


Photos in this post by Peter Matthews & Stuart Barnes

Emerging then from the renewed shelter of  The Wood and heading for the lee of Castle Farm,a large number of wagtails were spotted bouncing up & down from the filter beds over at the Water Treatment Works. I’d never been over there, though the shortcomings of local sewage provision had been the subject of a very interesting chat with someone from the IDB just this week. Why, I wanted to learn, was the road blocked with tankers & traffic lights outside the Co-op every time it rained?


So we made a diversion, past Curlews & Egyptian Geese, to the shelter of the pines treatment structures where there were not only 20++ Pied Wagtails but Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Starling & Wren. What I really wanted to see/hear was whether there were any Grey Wagtails,which breed in every other WTW in the area so why not this one. No sign however.




Upon arrival in the Halpin Hide,we were confronted with a great crowd of understated Gadwall backed up by more clearly heraldic Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon & Shelduck while Cormorants cruised over bearing sticks. No waders though apart from Lapwing & Oystercatcher, and no raptors at all. There were a lot of gulls about, on the fields and on the islands, giving an opportunity to sort through species and plumages of Black-headed,Common, Herring, Great & Lesser Black-backs, the latter two in fabulous breeding form. Although there have been plenty around since last weekend we only saw one – adult –Med Gull later on beside West Nook Meadows where we were also most surprised to see a large (for around here) flock of Barnacle Geese which had not been there earlier. The compactness of the group, the strengthening wind and their habit of suddenly chasing one another made it hard to get an accurate count but we settled for 55. Probably just hopped over the border from Scotney.



Hostages to Fortune

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 11, 2017 by cliffdean


Perhaps a title more apt than “Slow But Sure” for our Bird Race effort. Yes; we decided to do the usual route on foot – 18km Fairlight to Castle Water, 07.30 – 16.30, and found 97 species. Which is not bad but for the fact that so many other birds were present along that route but opted not to show themselves.


The most galling of these are the Birds of Shame – those common, common species which, for some cruel reason, cannot be found. Marsh Tit is pre-eminent in this category though, to be fair, is often reclusive anyway. But we pass through a few known habitats including a small wood where they live (they are famously sedentary) in which one can never be much more than 150m from a Marsh Tit yet sometimes they show, sometimes not. Yesterday was a “not” day. The other major BoS was Goldeneye, which can always be found on the Barn Pools at Harbour Farm except that yesterday they weren’t.


Then, we didn’t get any owls. Or Brent Goose. Or Linnet. Yet Linnet was not a typical BoS since, this winter, we knew of nowhere along the route where we might see one. And the long-staying RB Merganser was nowhere to be seen.


Having got the complaints out of the way, I should list the taken-for-granted highlights of this exceptionally bird-rich area. The only bird which came as a surprise was a solitary Snow Bunting which came flying along the beach towards us, settled a few metres way just long enough for people to struggle with their cameras before heading off again.


Everything else was expected: Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Taiga Bean, White-front & Barnacle Geese, Bearded Tits, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Ruff, Black-necked Grebe


There were great spectacles as well: rafts of GC Grebes out on the sea, swooshing masses of waders(Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit)  swirling around Pett Beach and great crowds of calling Lapwings & Wigeon filling the sky above Flat Beach.


In addition, our team’s flâneur character was maintained with coffee in Dave’s cliff-top garden (Jay, Red-throated Diver) and a restoring lunch in the Norman the Conqueror ().


PS Speaking of Norman – this was the name given to the errant which pitched up on St Leonards beach some months ago. Following a great deal of care at RSPCA Mallydams Wood, repatriation was arranged to Little Cayman. Sadly, Norman did not thrive once delivered there and departed his ocean-going life on Christmas Day. A sad ending and a great disappointment to those who had looked after him.


From the Viewpoint

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 29, 2016 by cliffdean


…and it’s all free! An extraordinary, rich soundscape as a huge procession of roosting birds passes over Castle Water in the hour before sunset.


Squadrons of incoming Cormorants crossed paths with thousands of howling gulls streaming in from the Weald on their way to the bay. As mist condensed there, Greylag Geese arrived from the Brede Valley to pause on pasture for a while before heading off across the border to Scotney. They were closely followed by Mute Swans which had spent a happy day trampling rape fields in the valley; these though splashed in to the lake for the night.


High overhead, dissolving into the darkening blue, came hundreds of Fieldfares full of apple from a day in the orchards, passing on towards the willows of Narrow Pits, nowadays also the preferred roost for the few Little Egrets I saw. A couple of Marsh Harriers had appeared, circling over the far end of the pit.

From the scrub and reeds came the sound of sedentary species like Blackbird, Dunnock, Cetti’s Warbler and shrieking Water Rail and from the water itself the varied quacks of Mallard & Gadwall, piping Teal and squeaking Coots, mostly hidden from view until a gunshot sent hundreds of birds into the air, silhouettes revealing the presence of Shelduck, Tufted Duck & Pintail as well as long skeins of Lapwings over the fields. No Wigeon though – their whistles oddly absent.


A rush of wings from Starlings dashing to their night-time haunt at Camber while a different lot were gyrating in the distance over Winchelsea Beach conifers (what determines these differing nocturnal preferences? Are they winter visitors from completely different countries?) These were eclipsed by the denser and noisier silhouettes of Jackdaws, assembling for the short journey to their favourite wood at Udimore. From surrounding arable farms Stock Doves & Woodpigeons converged, fluttering down into concealing branches.

No Pied Wagtails however. Only one Wren and no Goldcrests though once upon a time these too gathered here.


The ducks settled, the gulls stopped, the Cormorants had all arrived and the Peregrine, which had sat motionless in the Big Tree since my arrival, vanished. The dark reeds were triangulated by the calls of signing-off swampbirds. A few Grey Herons squawked and a Great White Egret came in silently.


With the sun finally slipping away, the temperature dropped sharply, Venus sparkled where orange met green met blue and suddenly the small dark form of a Bittern flapped over the reeds.


It’s all for free, a five-minute walk from the road, there every night and every morning – as well as the bits in between.

New views of Rye Harbour

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 29, 2016 by cliffdean

The Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve are engaged in a number of small projects which aim to change the way the reserve is seen and thought about.

  1. : Back on a fabulous, still morning in late June, Sam Moore made drone footage of the nature reserve which revealed the area in a way that surprised even those who knew it well. We asked Sam to edit his material into two films, dealing with the south (Beach Reserve) & north (Castle Water) parts, which have been on the SWT website for some time.

More recently however, we asked him to cut again, a 2-minute version to show at public events, cinemas etc. For this short film he also embellished the soundtrack with birdsong recordings already made on the reserve. The result has recently been screened at the Rye Kino, where superior projection and audio facilities make it look and sound even more impressive.

One part I like very much is the way the fade-out is accompanied by the cries of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls, the latter sound very localized, and contemporary too, in British terms.

2) Picturemap: At the end last year we began gathering all the names used for different parts  the reserve historic, current, informal, to assemble on a new, pictorial map. The reserve already has a map – a very clear, functional one – which is designed to help you find your way around, but this new one is illustrative, evocative and colourful, crammed with little details.


It’s being created for us by Picturemaps of Hastings, who have long experience of designing attractive merchandise for national museums and historic sites. The images you see here are still works in progress, with texture to be added and text amended (you might be able to spot opportunities for the latter).


Though we originally visualized the map as a poster, we’re beginning to imagine it used in other guises… The artwork should be finished soon, when the image will be save to a disc before reproducing.

3) Harry Hamilton Memorial


On Battle of Britain Day, September 15th, we dedicated the memorial stone to this Canadian pilot, just in front of the Oaks which had been planted to mark the spot of the crash in 1940. The Environment Agency donated the stone, which was inscribed by James Tomlinson and his assistant Kevin, then hauled into place thanks to neighbouring farmer Frank Langrish. For years, visitors have passed these Oaks unaware of their significance but from now on the stone will be there to make them see the place differently.



I discovered very late on in this project that the original Oak (just one) had been planted by the father of Hugh Sutton (above). Thanks to the prevailing SW winds there are now four trees, lined up NE of the original. We were very pleased that he could attend, and lay a Canadian wreath.



4) Photographic book: out next spring – watch this space!

A Bigger Splash

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 3, 2016 by cliffdean

sbswalkgannets2nov2016-455Bird photos by Mike Mullis

Day of the Dead: a clear sky and sharp drop in temperature should provoke the kind of spectacular Woodpigeon migration we sometimes see in early November, but as I brush my teeth I scan from the bathroom window across the Wealden ridges from which no flocks approach.


But what there is, what continues, is another spectacle, of a couple of hundred Gannets fishing all across the bay – after Whiting, hypothesized a couple of sea anglers, passive in envious contrast to the whirling and plummeting out at sea, sometimes in series like the strikes of a naval salvo. Sometimes the Gannets are floating as unfamiliar elongated silhouettes on the bright water, at other times surging up through a cloud of spray. The adults’ white wings blink in the sunlight as they wheel in search of the next victim.


There were a few Red-throated Divers and flocks of white-necked G C Grebes, at the end of one of which was a smaller grebe. This remained the subject of we-should-of-brang-a-scope controversy until it paddled so close that its identity was confirmed as Black-necked. All the time we scrutinised it, hurtling Gannets provided a distracting backdrop.


Day of the Dead: b the Old Lifeboat House we warmed the freshly-installed bench dedicated to Jimper Sutton, narrator, author & subject of many stories, a man of many parts. I taught two of his children at Winchelsea where, for a time, he was the school’s football coach. While visiting teams were accompanied by young teachers in shell-suits, Jimper clumped along the tough-line in fishing gear and wellies, roaring encouragement in local style.


Following a fortifying Chilli con Carne on a Bed of Fries at the Norman the Conqueror (as someone calls it in an online review), we called in on the recently established little group of Common Seals alongside the Rother. As I watched them lolling about on the mud, I wondered whether I should lay off the pub lunches for a bit…..


Ah yes, in the walk from Cliff End to Rye Harbour & Castle Water, we saw 88 species