Thursday, 6 June 2013

Rye Harbour in the sun

Yesterday Shane and I went to Rye Harbour, to hopefully see lots of terns and stuff. It was just about breezy enough to justify wearing fleece plus t-shirt, but sky-wise we had uninterrupted sunnyness. We reached the reserve at about 9.30am, the huge car park by the caravan park was almost empty. Heading out towards the sea, we were soon noting Skylarks and a stream of commoner gull species overhead.

Near Lime Kiln Cottage we found this monopedal House Sparrow, who has clearly found her disability no obstacle to family life.


A singing Meadow Pipit flew out from the new saltmarsh area and paused in a pathside bush before continuing its song flight out over the old saltmarsh area.

We had a look in the wader scrape hide but there was little to see in binocular range, and the scrape itself looked very dried out.

By the fence edge a Carrion Crow was walking along, trying to look nonchalant. These Oystercatchers, one of several pairs dotted about between here and the beach proper, were not convinced and booted the corvid out of their territory.

The corner of shingle at the far south-eastern corner of the reserve, before you get to the sea, is known as 'Flat Beach' and is the area where the Little Terns are breeding this year, as evidenced by some Little Tern-shaped dummies to attract the real thing, and plenty of electric fencing. We saw a few real Little Terns flying up and down the river, but I only managed blurry photos of them. Here instead is another Flat Beach inhabitant, a Ringed Plover.

The next leg of walk was fairly uneventful, though commuting Cormorants and Sandwich Terns went over our heads now and then, as did gulls including one or two 'yowking' Mediterraneans, a Wheatear flicked away over the rolling shingle and plenty of Linnets were around. We opted to go to the hide on the south shore of the Ternery Pool first.

Most of the islands were packed with Black-headed Gull nests. On some islands the gulls were still incubating, on others they had half-grown chicks. I guess this means that certain islands are 'favourites' and are occupied first, with the latecomers being relegated to the less cool islands. On one island there was a large cluster of Sandwich Terns.

The terns that were carrying fish were mainly incoming from the west, so I guess that's the direction the good fishing was.

This Redshank was slowly picking its way along the near shore towards the hide. We were hopeful of some very close views in due course but something (possibly us, we were probably quite visible through the oversized hide window) spooked it and it flew across rather than walking around the little bay in front of the hide.

We took a quick look at the beach. Lots of shingle vegetation to admire, including massive purple mats of Ivy-leaved Toadflax, but there was nothing much moving offshore - it did indeed seem that the terns were not fishing at this spot but further down to the west. So we retraced our steps along the seaside path and turned inland to visit the hide at the eastern tip of the Ternery Pool.

The island immediately in front of us was festooned with Black-headed Gulls, with a few Common Terns shoehorned in among them. This tern took its time making a descent onto the few square centimetres of shingle that comprised its home.

There were also Sandwich Terns down at this end of the lake, along with Coots, Tufted Ducks, a few Shovelers and some Mallards. A Little Egret flapped ponderously over, and more distantly a Starling flock whirled about.

The Black-headed Gulls had frequent quarrels among themselves, though this was as nothing compared to the uproar that broke out when a large gull species dared to try to overfly the pool.

Then across the track to the new hide, from where we saw more gulls'n'terns.



We went on towards Narrow Pits, but only as far as the path back towards the car park. On the way we passed some shallow new pools where nesting Avocets were guarding their chicks, and here we saw some wonderful flying shows.

We followed a narrow loop which eventually took us back to the two hides east of the Ternery Pool, via a reedy ditch where this Sedge Warbler was singing. A Hairy Dragonfly, my first 2013 dragon, was here too, hawking over the grimy-looking water.


Lepidoptera had been rather thin on the ground, just a few newly arrived Large Whites over the beach, but on the return leg of the loop we found first a Cinnabar moth and then a Small Heath.

Back to the two hides, which we did in reverse order, beginning with the new hide. These two Black-headed Gull chicks were piping plaintively in hope of some parental attention (which was eventually forthcoming). Some of the older chicks were actually swimming about, going well away from the safety of the islands.



Back across to the hide east of Ternery Pool now, and we spent an age in here thanks to lots of Mediterranean Gull action, several flying about close by and a pair actually landing on the nearest island, where they sidled round each other a lot, crooning and looking coy, before the male abruptly puked up some food for the female.


A 'three-bird flight' of Gadwalls went over and I took some distant photos, not realising until I examined the pics later that I'd caught some rather underhand tactics between the two rival males.

On the last stretch of path, this Linnet sang very nicely for us and even allowed a close enough approach for some photos. He looks very fetching in his pink bikini...

Having noticed several Little Terns along the river I suggested we take a closer look when we got back to the village (the riverside is not accessible on the actual reserve, too much muddy saltmarsh). At the village end though, there are lots of moored boats and with them lots of large gulls, enough to put off any Little Terns, I suspect.

Here's the next installment of my occasional series - 'Herring Gulls with weird prey'. I dread to think how it was going to deal with this starfish. No wonder the other gulls weren't pursing it trying to steal the prize. Across the river a young Great Black-backed Gull that had a fish was being chased by dozens of others.

Last pic of the day is this Collared Dove, which was cooing away from a telegraph wire but decided to fly for it when it spotted my camera.

6 comments:

Warren Baker said...

That Redshank is a class photo Marianne, but you've got some great ones with it too, doesn't this light make it a pleasure with the camera :-)

Graham Canny said...

Hi M,
The usual class photos and a brilliant narrative. Let's hope the weather stays warm!

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
You picked better weather than my recent visit , cloud cleared as I left .
Love those in flight Avocet shots .
Those Med Gulls were looking at the furthest island from the hide when I was there .

Lou Mary said...

Some fabulous in-flight photos! I love the 2 avocets both with outstretched wings. Brilliant!

Phil said...

Really like the formation flying Avocets Marianne and an island 'festooned' with BH Gulls sounds perfect!

Ken. said...

Marianne.
What a good day out at Rye you had. I intend going there very soon because I want to see one of my top 5 birds, the Little Tern.
A very good selection ofbirdlife. I especially like the shot of the 2 Avocets in flight.