Black-winged Stilts are a rare sight in Britain, but over the last 10 years they have become more regular and some pairs have nested. This is what our our "Birds and other vertebrates" report had to say:
Very rare vagrant - seven confirmed records with increasing numbers in the last couple of years:
1949: three on 9 May 1949.
1978: male at Ternery Pool from dawn on 11 June to 0630 on 12th.
2017: one on 2 June at Rye Harbour Farm.
2018: Two from 8 to 10 April – photo below - followed by three on 25 and 28 May.
2019: Two from 17 to 19 April on Rye Harbour Farm.
2020: One at Castle Water 11 June
BUT 2021 WAS DIFFERENT.
27th April - a pair of stilts was seen and photographed at Castle Water by James Tomlinson - top photo.
1st May - both were seen again, then singles were regular at Castle Water, but only in an area not accessible to the public and difficult to view. This is when we suspected they could be nesting on an island that had been prepared for nesting waders the autumn before.
The island vegetation was cut down to ground level and the island surrounded by a fence in the water to deter swimming Fox and Badger.
20th May - a stilt was seen from the Halpin hide by a visitor and the report got on to Birdguides and Rare Bird Alert Birdnews, but both were promptly taken down, due to the rarity of the species and difficulty in viewing.
2nd June - the adults' behaviour changed to the pair chasing off potential predators - Marsh Harrier, Herring Gulls, Carrion Crows, Raven and Little Egrets - this meant that they had nested and they had hatched. With an incubation period of 25 days and 4 days to lay eggs, this gets back to about 4th May for the start of nesting.
Pair of stilts chasing off Little Egret from where their chick is.
5th June – 3 stilt chicks was seen and in this video there are also a large Lapwing chick and Redshank parents calling.
17th June – 4 chicks were seen, one smaller than others - 3 chicks are in this video
30th June - the pair with a single chick (which at 4 weeks old was very small) were seen on the same island and again on 4th July. It is possible that some of the 3 larger chicks were there but not seen, because of the tall vegetation.
7th July - the day after a big storm, both parents were still present and alarming, but no chicks were seen.
8th July - one adult was seen near the nesting island.
9th July - there was no activity at dawn, but during the afternoon one adult and one fledged chick were seen!
10th July - the female stilt was seen in the area of the Water Mint where chick was on 9th and the male was feeding out from the Halpin hide.
11th July - no stilts seen.
This 0.12 hectare island also had 3 pairs of Lapwing, 2 Redshank and an Oystercatcher nesting and they all raised some young.
This brings the number of breeding birds at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to 101 and breeding waders to 8 species. You can find out about the others by downloading our "Birds and other vertebrates" report:
This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website