Rye Harbour's Piscivores

, 25 November 2021
Rye Harbour's Piscivores
Fish in Rother Estuary - James Tomlinson

November was a great month at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve for Piscivores - the animals that eat fish.

Earlier in the year there were so few small fish in the sea that Sandwich Terns and Mediterranean Gulls decided not to nest here.

But recently there's been so many small fish in Rye Bay, in the estuary and in the saltmarsh that there's been many animals feeding on them.

In the saltmarsh there's been 20 or more Little Egrets, up to 7 Great Egrets and a regular Spoonbill. In this video the Great White Egret - with yellow dagger like beak - is shown with Little Egret and Grey Heron.

In the Rother estuary Common or Harbour Seals have been frequent, with an occasional Goosander and Guillemot.

But the best "wildlife spectacle" of all was out in Rye Bay with Gannet, Cormorant, Red-throated Divers (photo below), Great Crested Grebe, Guillemot, Razorbill, some very late Sandwich Terns and of course many, many gulls. On some mornings there were more than a thousand Cormorants standing on the shore at low tide.

On a few days hundreds of Gannets came close inshore at high tide and there was a spectacular feeding frenzy near the river mouth.

Inland at the ditches and pits there were also several fisherbirds...

At the Halpin hide the long staying Black-necked Grebe was in its monochrome winter plumage, but still with its ruby red eye.

From the Denny and Parkes hides many Little Grebes were busy catching Three-spined Sticklebacks and prawns.

And along ditches, near culverts and occasionally on the posts in front of the hides a Kingfisher was often seen flying off, but only a trail camera could give a close view. The small size of these dazzling birds is shown by the comparison with the Stonechat and the Robin.

We hope that the fish stocks in the sea and inland remain high so that next year the grebes, gulls and terns that nest with us will have plenty of food to raise their young and that some of the Gannets that nest on Alderney will make the journey to Rye Bay for their catch of the day.

Leave a comment


  • Robin Harris:

    That’s some very good news, Barry, and great pictures. Who wouldn’t want to visit the reserve after seeing them!? Pity about the ‘non-nesters’ but perhaps next year….

    27 Nov 2021 12:06:00

  • Keith Valentine:

    Another Sussex shore piscivore was me. On a Sunday November morning stroll in Eastbourne I noticed that enormous shoals of sprats and whitebait were being chased into the shallows by even bigger shoals of mackerel and washing up on the beach. From there a hundred or so were conveyed to my freezer and have been supplying delicious fish suppers ever since – including tonight.

    01 Dec 2021 20:58:00