It is usually the weather that has the greatest influence in what you will see around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in the winter.
If the weather has been mild it will still be possible to find a few flowers of red valerian, viper’s bugloss, yellow-horned poppy, yarrow, gorse, herb robert and stork’s-bill. Some of the butterflies may be tempted from hibernation, so look out for small tortoiseshell and peacock.
Duck numbers will be increasing, especially wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, teal and perhaps pintail. This a good time of year to start looking at ducks because the males have got the colour back in their plumage.
Along the Beach Reserve there will be large flocks of common finches, such as greenfinches, linnets and goldfinch. Look out for rarer ones, like Lapland and snow buntings. During the day flocks of lapwing and golden plover may number a few hundred or a couple of thousand. Birds of prey are attracted by these smaller birds so you could see merlin, marsh harrier, short-eared owl and peregrine, as well as the more usual kestrel and sparrowhawk.
At Castle Water there will be wintering stonechat and chiffchaff. In the reeds look and listen for water rail, Cettis warbler and bearded tit. Around the pit margins you will see the white little egrets, but you might be lucky to see a brown bittern or the rarer great white egret.
Offshore, red-throated divers, great crested grebe, gannets, and guillemot may be fishing, especially after winter storms and great rafts of common scoter will be swimming in long black lines, sometimes accompanied by the rarer velvet scoter.
Along the shore winter storms may wash up a variety of sea life including seaweeds, cuttlefish “bones”, mermaids purses, starfish and sea-mouse (really a worm). Among this debris of the strand line some birds, like the turnstone, find their food.