January 2020 - Rye Harbour wildlife

January 2020 - Rye Harbour wildlife
Knot in its grey winter plumage

This month continued a good run of Knot numbers on the reserve, with at least 100 present on Flat Beach on the 10th. This stocky wader breeds in the arctic all around the northern hemisphere, visiting the UK, often in large numbers, during the winter months. Up until the early 2000s, this species occurred in relatively small numbers at Rye Harbour, with counts usually single or low double figures. However since then average numbers have increased (the 50 highest counts of this species on the reserve have all occurred since 2008), with fairly regular counts of 100 or more and a maximum of 500 on several dates. This species is often said to be named for King Canute (relating its shoreline feeding behaviour to the famous tale of Canute and the tide), though its name may be onomatopoeic, referring to its call.


Wader numbers remained high during January, though the regular attentions of two Peregrine and the ever present Marsh Harriers sometimes made for a bit of an avian desert on some days! This month saw up to 2000 Golden Plover, around 900 Lapwing, 200+ Dunlin on Flat Beach on the 12th and several counts of over 100 Curlew (above, usually coming in to roost towards dusk), while a flock of Ruff on Harbour Farm reached a maximum of 18 on 8th. Best of the bunch was the long-staying Spotted Redshank which was seen regularly on Harbour Farm and the Beach Reserve up to the 19th, while a flock of 30 or so Avocet which flew over the Beach Reserve before landing en masse on the sea on the 1st was something of a surprise! Notable waterfowl included the four Goosander on Castle Water on the 26th, Smew on Flat Beach up to the 21st, a Black-necked Grebe on Long Pit on the 4th and 12th and a Bittern at Castle Water on the 10th. In addition, up to six Goldeneye were present on Harbour Farm and there were several sightings of Great White Egret at Castle Water. Numbers of Shoveler remained high during January, with a count of 105 on 12th the maximum, while a count of 119 Gadwall at Castle Water on the 15th was notable and up to 23 Pintail were present on Flat Beach. This month also saw a flock of up to 53 Brent Goose (below) on the new saltmarsh on Harbour Farm throughout.

 Rx brent goose

Raptors included the usual suspects, with regular Marsh Harrier at Castle Water (two on the several dates), Buzzard at Castle Water on the 4th and Merlin over the Beach Reserve on the 1st and Harbour Farm on the 21st, while two Peregrine were seen regularly over the Beach Reserve and at Castle Water during January. In addition a Barn Owl was regular at Castle Water and Rye Harbour Farm. Passerine highlight during January was another Firecrest at Watch Cottage on the 8th, while a Treecreeper at the viewpoint on the 22nd was the first reserve record since 2015.

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