Minibus trip to Rye Harbour (17 March 2024)

Photo by Jeremy Norris

32 people enjoyed a day at Rye Harbour in East Sussex travelling in two 16-seater minibuses, thanks to Huw our R&T RSPB volunteer driver and Pat from RAKAT. We set off with trepidation because chaos was predicted due to the M25 closure but in the event the journey was quicker than normal!
We arrived in murky conditions, but the rain soon eased and had stopped completely by lunchtime to be replaced with sea fog which came and went for the rest of the day making visibility tricky in places. It was rather atmospheric and beautiful however especially when a ‘white bow’ emerged from the fog, straddling the beach. It looked like a leached-out rainbow with a slight tinge at each end but white in the middle. These happen when fog is thin enough to be pierced by sunlight. It was certainly my highlight of the day!

Despite the conditions we still saw or heard at least 71 species between us. Our nearly 6-mile walk took in the Discovery Centre and the saltmarshes then we turned inland, past the Salt Pool, to the freshwater pits and barns before cutting across a very muddy path back to the beach road. We had a quick look out of Crittall hide at what should have been the ternery but the stony area was completed flooded. By then time was running out so we followed the inland path back to the car park admiring the mobile homes on route and imagining hiring one! Although we walked miles Rye is also a good place for those who can’t walk very far. Some spent a pleasant day around the harbour and the path that leads to the beach.

Photo by Debbie Williams

The Spotted Redshank was our bird of the day. Huw and Ray found it on the Salt Pool, I hurried round to have a look and the others followed when they’d finished their sandwiches! By then it was foggier, and the bird had moved but was found again when it flew, chasing off a Common Redshank and issuing its distinctive ‘Chu-it’ call. In flight it was much paler and slimmer than the Common and lacked the white trailing edges to its wings. Some people were lucky to have both birds land right in front of them and were able to compare all the key features. Other highlights for the main group were 6 newly arrived Sandwich Terns feeding each other fish in a breeding display, a cryptic huddle of Snipe, 1 Knot, 3 Grey Plover, lots of Avocets, about 130 Golden Plover which were so well camouflaged that two, usually sharp-eyed, birders walked right past them, about a dozen Curlew coming in to feed on the marshes by Harbour Farm and Ringed Plovers claiming their nesting sites. Smaller groups of people saw a Merlin, Marsh Harrier, a Mediterranean Gull and 2 Brown Hares.

Less dramatic but no less interesting smaller birds for the day included Skylarks, Meadow Pipits Linnets and Reed Buntings around the saltmarshes. Once we’d turned inland and the track was bordered by hedgerows we added different species; the barns and large conifers between Narrow and Long Pits being particularly fruitful. Around here we had Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and a pair of Mistle Thrush. Back in the village at the end of the day we added House Sparrow and as is so often our last bird was Collared Dove, this time two were perched obligingly on a telephone pole behind the pub!

Photo by Clare Million

Minimum Species: Avocet, Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Brent Goose, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Curlew, Dunlin, Dunnock, Egyptian Goose, Feral Pigeon, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Goldfinch, Great Black-backed Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Plover, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Knot, Lapwing, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit, Merlin, Mediterranean Gull, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Ringed Plover, Robin, Sandwich Tern, Shelduck, Shoveler, Skylark, Snipe, Spotted Redshank, Starling, Stock Dove, Stonechat, Teal, Tree Creeper, Tufted Duck, Turnstone, Water Rail (h), Wigeon, Woodpigeon, Wren.