New Arrivals

New Arrivals

Since 1970 when Rye Harbour Nature Local Nature Reserve was first declared by the County Council there have been many changes in the breeding bird fauna of the reserve. The list below gives some of the most notable additions since 1970 along with dates of first breeding in Sussex as a whole and at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. 

SPECIES                             SUSSEX                                  RYE HARBOUR NR 

Little egret                            2001                                              2019   

Marsh Harrier                       2004                                             2008

Avocet                                   1979                                             1994

Little Ringed Plover             1948                                             1998

Common Gull                       1932                                              2006

Mediterranean Gull              1989                                             1994

Great Black-backed Gull     2000                                              2011

Sandwich Tern                     1975                                              1984 

Cetti’s Warbler                     1975                                              2003 

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Changing climate has undoubtedly played a part in the northward expansion of species such as Little Egret, Mediterranean Gull and Cetti’s Warbler (above) in recent years (though interestingly Little Egret was a UK resident until about 500 years ago before persecution and possibly climate change resulted in its extinction). However, successful breeding of many of these species would probably not have occurred without the sympathetic management of shingle and wetland Habitats at Rye Harbour. At Castle Water for instance, extensive reedbed creation was undertaken in 2003 as part of the EU LIFE – Nature project ‘reedbeds for Bitterns’ and this was followed in 2006 by work funded by the governments ‘Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund’. These projects created 130+ islands, extensive areas shallow water and freshwater ditches and increased wetland area by 15 ha. Since then regular management has been carried out to maintain the reedbeds, mainly through removal of encroaching willow. This has been of great benefit to species such as Marsh Harrier, Cetti’s Warbler and Little Egret through the provision of extensive areas of suitable breeding and/or feeding habitat. 

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The three species of gull on the list and Sandwich Tern (above) have principally benefitted from the creation and maintenance of over 20 islands on Ternery Pool (though Great Black-backed Gull (below) first nested locally on the roofs of Rye Wharf and often nests successfully on the Martello Tower in the village), while both Avocet and Little Ringed Plover have profited from similar projects on Harbour Farm which have created around 25 islands since the building of the secondary sea-defence in 2006. Also of great benefit to many of the species on the Reserve was the recreation of around 20ha of new saltmarsh on former arable land on Harbour Farm in 2011. Avocet in particular love to feed on invertebrates in the shallow water here and they also occasionally nest on some of the open areas created during the project. In addition, many of these species will undoubtedly have benefitted from the provision of predator fencing around the major areas of shingle and some of the more vulnerable islands to exclude species such as Fox and Badger, as well as control of pest species such as American Mink (to protect our populations of Water Vole and nesting wetland birds). I wonder which new species will be breeding here in another 50 years time!

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  • Robin Harris:

    26 Oct 2020 13:18:00

    Interesting stuff, Chris. My guess for the next ‘new’ bird to nest at RHNR is a tern species – but perhaps that’s wishful thinking?!

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