Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings November 2023 | Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings November 2023

Thursday, 30th November 2023

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Wildlife Sightings November 2023
Grey Partridge © Derek Middleton

By Paul Tinsley-Marshall

Site Manager, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Storm Ciarán hit on 1st and 2nd November and was exceptionally severe for the time of year, comparable in severity with the ‘Great Storm’ of 16 October 1987. While Ciarán brought very strong winds to the South Coast, with gusts of 69 to 81mph, the location of the storm track meant that the worst impacts occurred to the south across the English Channel, and thankfully the reserve suffered little damage of note. Storm Ciarán was also an exceptionally deep area of low pressure and also brought further significant and heavy rainfall on top of persistent wet weather through much of October. 

Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser © Roger Wilmshurst

Up to 64 Brent Geese were seen on the Salt Marsh, visible from the Discovery Centre. There has been an increase in duck numbers generally, including counts of 110 Pochard on the Long Pit, 300 Shoveler on Castle Water, a male Goldeneye on Ternary Pool, and a Red-breasted Merganser was on Flat Beach for a couple of days. Up to eight Grey Partridge were seen regularly near the Gooder’s Hide, a Black-necked Grebe was on Castle Water, along with a Black Tern on 29th October, with one seen again on 7th November, also 3 Common Terns, and a very late Arctic Tern was seen on at least two occasions at the river mouth. A handful of late Swallows, usually singles, have passed through. The star wader of the month was a Grey Phalarope on 8th November found on a flooded field near Cuckoo Corner, later re-found on the Sand Martin Pool, and seen by many over a couple of days. Up to 100 Curlew have roosted on the saltmarsh in front of the Discovery Centre, 300 Oystercatcher have been present, Grey Plover and Golden Plover numbers increased, and Snipe were roosting on Ternery Pool, best seen on the edge of the islands in front of Crittall hide. 

Grey Phalarope
Grey Phalarope © Hugh Clark FRPS


An Arctic Skua was seen at the river mouth heading West on the 12th, and the star gull of the month, a Sabine’s Gull on the 8th was only the second record for the reserve. Up to 6 Little Gull were seen at both Castle Water and west of Harbour Farm. Two Cattle Egrets were at Castle Farm on the 7th, and 15 on the 9th, with Little Egret, Great Egret and Spoonbill present throughout the month, the latter usually on Flat Beach or the saltmarsh. Merlin and Peregrine were seen regularly hunting over Flat Beach, up to 100 Fieldfare have been present on Castle Farm, and Song Thrush song was noted. Raven has been seen occasionally, there has been an influx of Skylark and Stonechat wintering on the reserve, two Rock Pipit have been seen regularly by the Discovery Centre, often on the river side of the main sluice, and three Dartford Warbler are wintering near Cuckoo Corner.

Common Darter were noted still on the wing well into the month, in tandem, and as a thruple, and a Red Admiral was seen on the Ridge on the 19th. Still flowering this month were Viper’s Bugloss, Yellow-horned Poppy, and Wild Carrot, though frosts have now finally begun to hit. Slightly off-site a dead Dolphin spp. was seen at Winchelsea Beach on the 6th.

Common Darter
Common Darter © Alan Price

Thanks go to all the observers whose observations contribute to the monthly sightings 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 do please let us know at [email protected].


This post is also available on Sussex Wildlife Trust website

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