Archive for Rye Harbour NR


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 12, 2018 by cliffdean

There were lots of birds to be seen on the Friends’ Walk at Castle Water yesterday afternoon but what made it memorable was the overwhelming cloudscape brought in on the chill NW wind.

As much as we felt jeopardised by the sweeping tendrils of sleet, they somehow passed either side.

At the lake itself, rafts of duck were one minute monotone, the next burnished in golden light. Marsh Harriers criss-crossed the reeds and breeding-plumage sinensis Cormorants looked completely unfamiliar as they swam through flocks of Gadwall. Single Little & Great Egrets glittered as they flew against the dark background. A dozen Ruff dashed around in front of us and a pale duck overhead with Mallards turned, most unexpectedly, to be a male Goosander!

“You seem to have had very bbbad luck with your weather Mr Turner.”

With an appreciation of landscape still dominated by Romantic painters, the sky was soon being described as Turneresque, referring perhaps to this 1830 view of Winchelsea…

…though I would have upped to stakes to Altdorfer…

…or John Martin.

As we returned towards the Reedbed Viewpoint, another 3 Great Egrets came in over our  heads to roost by the lake, and then another 2. So – altogether 6 Great Egrets, when only a few years ago they were still rare birds.


New Year almost

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 5, 2018 by cliffdean

Tuesday January 2nd 2018: Since I’d wanted to join the Rye Harbour walk on the First (it was wet and windy but 18 people turned up, stayed the course and enjoyed watching murmurations of Golden Plovers & Lapwings as well as some scarcer birds such as Black-necked Grebe & Red-breasted Merganser) the customary RXbirdwalk was displaced till the following day when it was dark and grey but at least dry – till 11 o’clock.

This meant a change of plan to make the most of the two hours available: drive to the Pools and look out from the seawall and beach. There were plenty of birds again – the sky often full of Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins & Starlings flushed up from the soggy pastures by unseen predators or maybe just popular panic. Sorting from these moving silhouettes the small groups of Golden Plovers & Ruffs was a stimulating challenge as was the separation of grey roosting waders into Grey Plover, Knot & Dunlin as they huddled on the shingle, thanks to the miserable weather undisturbed by strollers .

Likewise, the lines of birds roosting behind the roadside pool provided an interesting task since they comprised several species of gull & wader. Then there were the many dabbling and diving ducks with a Marsh Harrier cruising over them.

So, by the time the New Year Drizzle arrived half an hour early we had seen quite a variety of birds (40), though when I came to compile it the lack of you-see-them-every-time species such as Blackbird, Blue Tit & Robin felt strangely unbalanced. Once you get east of the Toot Rock bushes though, they just aren’t there.

Harry R Hamilton memorial

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

Tomorrow at 11am we’ll be laying a wreath on the stone which marks the crash site of Hamilton’s aircraft during the Battle of Britain.

Find out more about him here.

The memorial is situated 300m SE of Camber Castle, 200m S of Halpin Hide, beside a clump of oaks.

On its way…

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

For more than a year four of us from the Friends’ committee have been working on “The Shingle Shore”, a photographic book about Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Sheena Morgan designed and edited the book; she and Barry Yates wrote most of the text while Alan Martin and I contributed to discussions concerning its format and contents as well as supplying photos and, in my case, the introduction.

It’s been a long haul and a steep learning curve, with more organisational difficulties than anticipated and some frustrating technical glitches but today I got an email from the “Avocet” Gallery with the exciting news that the proofs were back from the printers! And the quality is even better than we expected – really encouraging to have something material after so much work, so many discussions!

The book is strongly visual in character, uniting the work of about a dozen photographers who’ve been working on the reserve, but organises text in themes, the sequence following a route around the reserve to cover essential habitats & operations and characteristic species. It’s written in a way that is informative and accessible and designed to be full of interest even to those not able or inclined to read.

We’re hoping “The Shingle Shore” will prove a strong advertisement for the reserve, will serve as a promotional publication and will be purchased as a souvenir or gift. To that end it should be available in a few weeks’ time, ready for the Christmas market (or in my case for a very late birthday present!) It’s a 128-page soft-back retailing at £15 with all income feeding back into the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

(Incidentally, it’s not loose-leaf! There’s nothing wrong with the binding – the photos show the unbound proofs.)

On the move

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by cliffdean

On the Winchelsea Beach seawall, as we set off last Saturday, we were passed by constant flocks of Goldfinches which often fluttered down onto the roadside teasels. And if you turned your head in the other direction you could see Gannets gliding and diving on the horizon while from overhead came the trilling of Skylarks making landfall. I had made this walk a couple of times already in the last week and was surprised at how much had changed: the numbers of Chiffchaffs had decreased and House Martins, so very numerous before, were entirely absent, both species having plainly made their way south.

Among the passing Goldfinches we could often hear Siskins and Redpolls. While the former stayed in the air we were lucky to have good views of the latter as they alighted in bushes on the Beach Field. This is more than can be said for the several Goldcrests we came across, which typically hid in high canopy, showing mostly in silhouette.

The Fairy-ring Field by Castle Farm held its usual crowd of Pied Wagtails and just after one of the group asked if it were too late for Yellow Wagtails, two of them appeared – quite late in the season – both washed-out looking juveniles. Towards the Castle we found a couple of Stonechats though no Curlews or Egyptian Geese.

As we approached Castle Water, something greatly disturbed the birds upon it, which rose up in a great honking of Greylags and a range of ducks disappearing into the distance so we prepared to be disappointed but, whatever had caused the panic, things had settled down by the time we got into the hide. As usual there were hundreds of birds though not the range of waders there has been, nor the celebrated Little Gull. We did, though, have excellent views of hunting Marsh Harrier and a more distant Buzzard.

On the way back we ran into a Treecreeper on one of the big, gnarled willows in The Wood and at the southern end of The Ocean found a Great Egret feeding alongside a few Littles, providing a useful direct comparison of size, structure and stance.

As usual we saw a good range of species, numbering 67.


Lots of birds, few people.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 8, 2017 by cliffdean

Thursday: Dogs’ Hill to Castle Water. 79 species. This is not exceptional for this time of year, but as I have commented on previous occasions, there are not a lot of places where you could see such a variety of birds in such a short walk.

There was an eastward flow of diurnal migrants: lots of Swallows & House Martins, hundreds of Goldfinches accompanied by smaller numbers of Linnets, Redpolls, Siskins, alba Wagtails, Meadow Pipits & Skylarks. On the ground, Chiffchaffs everywhere but very few Blackcaps.

Most surprising was a pair of Coal Tits in scrub alongside the seaside track. Over several years I’ve submitted 61 complete Birdtrack lists for this site but today seems to be the first time I’ve recorded this species although at nearby Pett Level they’ve become frequent in recent years right down to the eastward edge of the PLPT land. I had a good look at these birds, which appeared to be the native rather than Continental type and after a few minutes they flew to more typical habitat  in a garden pine on The Ridge and half an hour later, one was calling from The Wood.

Along the southern edge of The Ocean (formerly confusingly known as Long Pit) a procession of small birds passing through the willows comprised Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tits and a Treecreeper, while Bullfinches & Goldcrests were calling from nearby bushes and a GS Woodpecker came flying over from the Beach Reserve.

By Castle Water I met one local birder who reported that the area round Halpin hide was “dead” but when I got there I found the lake full of birds including Little Gull, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Marsh Harrier & Peregrine. There were just two other people in the hide while in the wider landscape of Castle Farm there just a few distant dog-walkers. People sometimes complain that the Beach section of the reserve is too crowded, too busy, yet if you turn inland you have the place to yourself.

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