Gulls

Saturday 21 April 2018

Thirty-five members took part in this excursion to Rye Harbour in Sussex. The weather was perfect, warm with a cooling sea breeze.

An 8am start meant that we arrived at Rye Harbour around 10.30am. We split into several smaller groups. One group made the full clockwise circuit of the reserve, my group did a circular route of the South Eastern portion of the reserve back to the village and they walked up the road to the Viewpoint.

The scrapes were full of waders, noticeably Avocet and Oystercatcher with a smaller number of Curlew, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Ringed Plover (others also saw Redshank, Whimbrel and Grey Plover). There was a pair of Brent Geese together with the more numerous Greylags. A good selection of gulls was visible as well as the first sightings of terns, with three Little Terns on a small island dwarfed by neighbouring Common Terns. Shelduck, Wigeon and, later, a Red-breasted Merganser added to the scene.

A summer-plumaged Turnstone entertained us on the edge of the river mouth and a pair of Wheatear made a brief appearance before we turned on the path parallel to the seafront. At the hide by the Ternery Pool we quickly identified a significant number of Mediterranean Gulls amongst the more numerous Black-headed. Sandwich Terns were nesting on the grass bank opposite us and on a small shingle island, a second island had Common Terns.

Leaving the hide, we were immediately serenaded by a number of Skylarks, which fluttered above our heads, and a Meadow Pipit settled close by on a fencepost. As we left the scrape area, our attention was drawn to the shrubby areas where warblers could be heard. We first identified Whitethroats (which seemed to be ever present from that point on) and then Sedge Warblers although, at least for my party, these proved fairly elusive with only occasional glimpses; Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap were seen by other groups. One or two Kestrels made an appearance as we settled down on the dry grass for our picnic lunches

Cuckoo (K Osa)
After lunch we walked back towards Rye Harbour village picking up Chiffchaff en route. The unmistakeable sound of a Cuckoo led to a quick search of telephone wires where we spotted the Cuckoo with its back to us seemingly calling in the direction of the sea. We were able to get telescopes on the bird, which did eventually half-turn to show its stripy front.

As we approached the village there were a couple of Swallows and then House Martens dashing over the houses. Most of my group then walked up to the Northern part of the reserve and to the Viewpoint, observing some Linnets on the way. The Viewpoint was a tranquil spot overlooking part of Castle Water with reedbed all around and a large Cormorant roost opposite. A very close Cetti's Warbler gave its loud call but we couldn't locate it. We did see a Reed Bunting and two Great-crested Grebes and heard several Reed Warblers. A Buzzard drifted past and then we saw a pair of Marsh Harriers hunting over the reed bed in the distance. The last few to leave the Viewpoint were lucky to see three Great White Egrets break cover.

As we walked back to the village a Mistle Thrush appeared in a tree over our heads then flew across the road to settle in a nest at eye level in the fork of a tree.

Mistle Thrush
Mistle Thrush (H Hodgetts)