Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings: May 2024 | Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings: May 2024

Thursday, 20th June 2024

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings: May 2024
Avocet chick © Barry Yates

By Paul Tinsley-Marshall

Site Manager, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

May started with thunderstorms across southern England, and the weather continued to be unsettled for the first week. Low pressure systems brought scattered showers across the UK, some of them locally heavy. However, a high-pressure system covered England and Wales on the 8th and brought more settled weather. The clear weather coincided with a large solar flare on the 10th that led to the aurora borealis being visible across the entire UK, with many spectacular images recorded in the local area. Low pressure systems returned towards the middle of the month, bringing further unsettled weather and more thunderstorms across the UK. Rainfall was at times heavy, but otherwise patchy and light, with some bright, sunny spells. This pattern of unsettled weather continued for the rest of the month. The UK experienced its warmest May on record, in a series going back to 1884.

Aurora borealis
Aurora borealis © Paul Tinsley-Marshall

A Bittern was heard and seen frequently at Castle Water, along with a Purple Heron on the 5th, and a number of Cattle Egret in breeding plumage. Spoonbills (2) and Great White Egret were on Salt Pool on the 7th and 21st, and a single Spoonbill was on Flat Beach on the 27th. Buzzards were seen occasionally, Red Kite (2) were noted on the 8th and a single on the 10th, a pair of Marsh Harriers were photographed performing a food pass with an unfortunate Marsh Frog, and Hobby were seen at Castle Water on the 26th and 31st. 

Marsh Harrier and Marsh Frog
Marsh Harrier and Marsh Frog © James Tomlinson

A flock of the tundrae’ race of Ringed Plover (20) were on the Wader Pool on the 11th and have occurred regularly every May since the new saltmarsh habitat was established. They are distinctly smaller than the typical hiaticula’ race, with a shorter wing, more slender bill and legs. The orbital margin is not so well marked making the head less arched, more delicately formed, and with the colour of upper-parts darker than in hiaticula. Carefully examine any flock of this species seen in May! Other passage waders included Grey Plover (15) and Knot (8), both seen in breeding plumage on the 12th, and Curlew Sandpiper (2) on the 14th on Flat Beach. The first Avocet chicks were noted on the 12th, along with young Lapwing and Redshank in Nook Meadows. On 10th May Little Tern (12) were counted, with signs of eight pairs nesting by the 29th, along with Sandwich Tern (60) nesting on Flat Beach. There were also many nesting pairs of Common Tern, Black-headed Gull and at least one pair of Common Gull. A juvenile Little Gull was at Castle Water on the 27th. At least one Cuckoo could be heard throughout the month, a Barn Owl was hunting regularly over Nook Meadows, and a Tawny Owl landed briefly on the roof of Watch Cottage on the 30th. Hirundine numbers increased with counts of Swift (170+), Swallow (45), Sand Martin (20) and House Martin (85) feeding over Castle Water.

Little Gull
Little Gull © James Tomlinson


Variable Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly and Downy Emerald Dragonfly were noted, along with Small Heath butterflies. Three larvae of Sussex Emerald were found by surveys led by Butterfly Conservation, and Silver-Y moths were seen frequently.

Downy Emerald Dragonfly
Downy Emerald Dragonfly © Derek Middleton

A Water Vole was seen at Castle Water, Stoat and Fox were seen occasionally, and a Slow Worm was found on the 11th.

Water Vole
Water Vole © Hugh Clarke FRPS

Plants in flower included Sea Pea, Bee Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid, Wild Carrot, Grass Vetchling, Sea Kale, Yellow Horned-poppy, Yellow Vetch, Yellow Rattle, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Salsify, Sea Campion, Ivy-leaved Toadflax, and of course, Common Gorse.

Bee Orchid
Bee Orchid © Barry Yates

Thanks go to all the observers whose observations contribute to the monthly sighting reports. If you have spotted something interesting on the reserve, please do make a record via https://irecord.org.uk/, and if you think it is particularly significant please let us know at [email protected].


This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website

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