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A Ploverly Place

Kentish Plover / Martin Caseman
Kentish Plover / Martin Caseman
Author Barry Yates

With all the recent improvements to habitats at our Rye Harbour Nature Reserve there has been a corresponding improvement in the quantity and quality of wildlife. One group of birds that it now excels in is PLOVERS. This is a group of long-legged, short-billed wading birds. The breeding species are lapwing (or green plover), ringed plover and little ringed plover and they are already displaying, some lapwings have already laid their clutch of four eggs even in this persistent cold weather. A much rare species is the Kentish plover and Rye Harbour was one of the last regular nesting sites in Britain in the 1950s. One of our great hopes is that the new saltmarsh habitat will tempt a pair from across the English Channel to start a new breeding population here. Last year in May we got excited when a single Kentish plover was present for a few days, but this week we have been graced by two (but both are males). One of the birds has a number of colour rings which make it uniquely identifiable and it was ringed as a breeding adult in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany on 25th May 2009.

lapwing nest / Barry Yates
lapwing nest / Barry Yatesautumn dotterel / Barry Yatesautumn dotterel / Barry Yates

We have other non-breeding plovers that are here for most of the year, golden and grey plovers, and both are just getting their breeding plumage which is a striking gold/black or grey/black colour scheme. Just occasionally in spring or autumn a dotterel may be found among these plovers. These three species have a long northward journey ahead of them in the next few weeks.

There are also some ultra-rarities that have only been seen here once a semi-palmated plover (1916), an American golden plover (1916), a Pacific golden plover (2003) and a sociable plover (2001) that was all on its own.

So we have turned back the clock by converting some arable fields into saltmarsh habitat after 60 years. This area has rapidly matured with many specialised plants, invertebrates and wading birds. Lets hope that one day we can announce the return of breeding Kentish plovers to Sussex but Im not expecting it to be this year!

Golden Plover and Lapwing at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

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