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Winter Waders

4 species of wader on the shore at Rye Harbour

Wading birds can be an identification challenge for those that see them occasionally. The winter is a good time to learn them because the possibilities are more predictable. The common ones in decreasing size are Curlew, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Redshank, Knot, Snipe, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin. However, in recent years (and days) there have been regular winter Spotted Redshank, Ruff, Little Stint and Avocet. Then in late April and May the more confusing passage migrants appear...

In the photo above from yesterday there are 4 common species, these are described on the next page, but have a go first! 

Click to read more ...



The Fieldfare can be an abundant winter visitor to the RX area, particularly during snow, and will often venture into gardens for apples during hard weather. Birds ringed in our area have been found in Norway, Sweden and Russia during following summers. One bird being found dead in Kirov, USSR which is 3,267 kms away.

Many species will winter in the same area each year but Fieldare and Redwing are exceptions. One bird ringed here in February 1996 was shot in November 1996 near Ravenna in Italy. Another two have been shot in later winters in France and a third was reported 'taken by predatory bird' in France nearly six years after ringing. 


Front Line

Conspicuous in our coastal landscape are the many layers of fortification and anti-invasion defence, from the Roman forts at Pevensey and Stutfall, the Norman Castle at Hastings, mediaeval fortified towns at Rye and Winchelsea, Camber Castle from the time of Henry VIII, the Napoleonic-era Royal Military Canal and Martello Towers, post WWI Sound Mirrors at Lade & Hythe, then a mass of concrete and entrenchment from WWII.

In general, the more ancient of these are celebrated and protected yet the most recent are hardly noticed. This does not necessarily mean they are threatened - reinforced concrete is, after all, designed with threats in mind - yet the smaller Second World War defences can be shifted or obscured so that their former disposition, function and significance is hard to discern.

I was pleased last week to happen upon "East Sussex Under Attack" by Chris Butler, which attempts a comprehensive catalogue of historic defences across the county and which immediately clarified, modified or corrected what I thought I knew about defensive structures in this area.

The front line for invasion is of course one and the same as the front line for the arrival of migrant birds and therefore much frequented by bird-watchers who find themselves all too often seeking the fragrant shelter of an old block-house or passing the lonely roots of a long-lost radar station. (I was at first pleased then later a bit worried at the number of pill-boxes I recognised as I flicked through the pages.)

Rye Harbour and Camber Castle receive detailed attention for their rich heritage of defences from different eras. I was particularly pleased to find the purpose of those odd corrugated huts to the west of the Castle: the one shaped like an upturned boat is apparently a Stanton shelter which formed the control centre for the decoy site at Camber Castle. I had never heard of this decoy site but details can be found here.

These odd concrete buildings lack the romantic aura of the nearby castle and for that reason could easily be lost. In his introduction to the book Chris Butler relates that "in Seaford some 30 per cent of the surviving Second World War sites present in the mid-1990s have been demolished during the last 10 years!"


Rye Harbour

Cold but bright conditions this morning after the days of rain and good to see a few birds again. Highlights  around the Beach Reserve included a Spotted Redshank, 12 Snipe and 3 Mediterranean Gulls from the Denny Hide, Ternery Pool attracted 500 Lapwing, 12 Ruff, 205 Teal and a drake Goldeneye. Harbour Farm pools were fairly quite except the western end which held 150 Lapwing, 45 Shoveler, 39 Teal and 30 Gadwall, 4 Goldeneye including another drake were by the barns a Barn Owl was also hunting along the bank. Good numbers (180) of Curlew were roosting on the new saltmarsh area well into late morning with an additional 250 birds departing at day break, at least two Avocet were feeding in the creek systems. At Castle Water a Bittern gave flight views from the viewpoint, 9 Ruff were amongst 100 Lapwing in the fields at the northern end of the main pit, 3 Marsh Harrier and flocks of Teal, Shoveler, Wigeon and Gadwall were on view from the hide.


Signs of Spring

I never cease to be amazed by the speed with which our plants respond to the stimuli of milder weather and the now gradually-lengthening days. Thus on Rye Hill yesterday I was surprised to find leaves emerging on a Hawthorn bush. Already some leaves have burst through on Elders, even on the cut-leaved form of the shrub that grows on the Hill. On the roadside banks as the road dips downhill towards Rye, vigorous plants of Lesser Celandine already have flower stalks with the yellow star-like blooms ready to open out in any burst of sunshine. Although known as an early Spring flower, this buttercup can flower strongly before even Snowdrops and Crocuses have got going. Alexanders plants are looking very green and healthy in the damp weather. These leaves start to form in late Autumn and in the very mild conditions of the closing months of 2011 the plant flowered vigorously from mid-November right through the winter until severe frosts in early February laid the plants low; the devastation was very noticeable on the roadside verges between Rye and Broad Oak. This winter however Alexanders has wisely decided not to flower but by March, given a good run of mild weather, its pale yellow umbels should be gracing our roadsides.