The 47th year of the nature reserve has been eventful and full of wildlife. We summarised each month as they passed, but here is a quick summary of the year...
In March the nature reserve was included in the Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay Special Protection Area and Ramsar site designations. These international designations should help to protect the wider area and fund our management of the nature reserve into the future.
Wildlife had its usual ups and downs and the Top Ten wildlife highlights of the year were :
- Two new plant species for the nature reserve - common sea lavender and wood avens.
- The 47th species of wading bird, an American golden plover.
- Hypocoprus latridioides, a 1mm beetle found at Castle Water had not seen in Britain for 114 years.
- The very rare marshmallow moth was seen on the marshmallow plants at Castle Water.
- 62 pairs of avocet nested, but competition between families led to some infanticide!
- A pair of peregrine and two pairs of marsh harrier nested successfully.
- A booming bittern, pinging bearded tit, explosive Cetti's warbler and squealing water rail were often heard in the reedbeds.
- Confirmation of the first record for the UK of a rove beetle species, Euaesthetus superlatus.
- The nature reserve’s species list is now 4,300 with more than 200 considered nationally rare, the largest group is beetles with 946 species !
Some lowlights to the year were:
- The very poor nesting success of common, little and Sandwich terns was due to lack of suitable small fish in the sea at the critical time.
- We lost two breeding birds, yellow wagtail and turtle dove, reflecting the national decline. So very sad.
- The flowers on large areas of shingle were still being reduced by grazing rabbits, but inside some the rabbit fences it was very flowery… so we plan to fence another area during the winter.
- Australian Swampweed, Crassula helmsii, continues to invade all of our freshwater wetlands, living up to its name, but the hope is that the biocontrol is made available by government scientists in 2017. If not, then the freshwater wetlands of the nature reserve and wider countryside will continue to be overwhelmed by this invasive non-native plant and several rare species will decline, such as bittern, water rail, spangled button beetle and lesser water-plantain.
The nature reserve is not just about wildlife and we also appreciate and promote the history of the local area. In September, on Battle of Britain Day, we were able to remember Flight Lieutenant Harry Raymond Hamilton who died on 29th August 1940 when the Hurricane he was flying crashed near the ruins of Camber Castle. The Friends of the nature reserve have created a memorial stone to him there.
2016 was the year we discovered the value of drone imagery that revealed the extent and patterns of habitats and showed visitors the nature reserve’s amazing wetland landscapes in dramatic videos, including a short film showing at Rye Kino.
We said goodbye to Lucy on maternity leave and will very soon welcome Andy Dinsdale to provide cover for the People and Wildlife role here. Our What’s On 2017 is full of wildlife activities for all ages, so do come and discover our wildlife and easy walks.
Developing the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre is a very large ongoing project and so far we have refined the design to include all desirable elements, but especially a classroom, toilets and a cafe with good views. Its cost is as large as its ambition and it will be a great fund-raising challenge. We have just installed the cabins for the temporary information centre and office and the first months of 2017 will be spent getting this right, to help inspire people to support the nature reserve and our Discovery Centre project.
2017 promises to be an exciting year with the launch of a detailed picturemap, a photo book, the final landscaping of wetland features on Rye Harbour Farm, the start of a monthly Wildlife Watch group and regular healthy walks and even long distance runs. There are sure to be new wildlife discoveries, but our priority must remain to look after our 200+ nationally rare and endangered species, because they have so few places left to live in.
We could not manage the nature reserve without the practical and financial support of the two charities:
- Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve ended the year with an impressive 1,986 supporters.
- Sussex Wildlife Trust with its membership of more than 30,000 across the county.
If you support one or both of them, then thank-you very much, it makes a great difference to our wildlife and visitors. If you don’t yet support us and would like to, then please do click on the links above and help us to make this an even better place for you to enjoy.
We wish all our supporters a Happy New Year full of wildlife - like the flock of wigeon below.