What you might see

With a great variety of habitats it is not surprising that there is such a wealth of wildlife on the Nature Reserve.


Rye Harbour is most famous for its bird life and in particular its breeding colonies of the little, common and Sandwich terns. In recent years the populations of these terns and other ground nesting birds (such as ringed plover, avocet, oystercatcher, redshank, lapwing, and wheatear) have increased in number and breeding success. This has been achieved through careful habitat management and implementing conservation measures such as the erection of electric fencing enclosures (to deter fox and badger) and a team of voluntary wardens. So far more than 280 species of birds have been recorded on the Reserve, of which over 90 have nested. Apart from the interest of the breeding birds, Rye Harbour is also a good place to observe bird migration, while in winter large numbers of wildfowl and waders gather to take full advantage of the relatively undisturbed Reserve area. Redshank (below) are present all year round.

A leaflet of the Common Winter Birds at Rye Harbour can be downloaded by clicking here.

A leaflet of the Common Summer Birds at Rye Harbour can be downloaded by clicking here.


The Beach Reserve is recognised as having one of the finest examples of coastal shingle vegetation in the country. Particularly in late May and June the beach is transformed by a colourful array of flowers, the striking sea kale, and viper's bugloss, the delicate yellow horned-poppy, sea pea and sea campion to name only a few. Along the river's edge there is a good example of intertidal saltmarsh vegetation and going inland a little, the gravel pits and drainage dykes provide more variety in the form of waterside and aquatic plant life. Around Camber Castle there are the unique ancient shingle ridges that have a very specialised flora. In all more than 456 species of flowering plants have so far been recorded on the Nature Reserve, including 27 scarce species and two ENDANGERED species, least lettuce and stinking hawksbeard (below).

A leaflet of the Coastal Flowers at Rye Harbour can be downloaded by clicking here.


Where there is a good variety of plant life, there usually exists a correspondingly good variety of animal life. Studies carried out on the invertebrates have shown Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to be of outstanding National Importance. 2,321 species have been noted so far, including 209 Notable species and more than 100 Red Data Book (RDB) species - such as the spangled button beetle and the medicinal leech (below). However, there remains much to learn and there is a lack of detailed knowledge about most of the rare and notable species.


Of the larger animals on the Reserve perhaps the one most commented upon is the marsh frog which can be heard noisily croaking all summer long - it's an introduced species (in 1935) that dominates the Romney Marshes. At night the Reserve is the domain of badgers, foxes and bats, including a good population of the Nathusius' pipistrelle (below).