I think spring is the best time of year to visit the reserve at Rye Harbour as there is so much to see as it awakes from the long wet winter.
The sunshine of the last couple of weeks seems to have kick-started the spring and some of our wading birds can already be seen performing their courtship displays and migrating birds have started arriving.
Avocet numbers are increasing – last year 41 pairs nested, the highest number to date, so we are looking forward to seeing how many will be here this year. These elegant birds, once on the brink of extinction in Britain, are a firm favourite with visitors and it is such a delight when they bring their tiny chicks to feed in wetlands near to the footpaths, you don’t even need binoculars to see them. If you do forget your binoculars, however, there is always a volunteer in our information centre happy to lend you some.
Soon many more birds will be arriving from their warmer winter climes and the islands on the pools will come alive as Sandwich terns and black-headed gulls squabble over the best nesting spots – it’s worth taking a walk out to the beach where there are four birdwatching hides overlooking the islands for you to sit out of the wind and soak up the sounds and the view.
As we move through spring some of the more familiar summer migrant birds will arrive, including swallows, house martins and cuckoos, the latter of which were so abundant around a particular patch of bramble last year that people started calling it Cuckoo Corner!
We always keenly await the arrival of the little tern, a small feisty migrant whose numbers have dwindled in recent years, but as shown in the logo of our Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve we do everything we can to support this smallest of terns, including the fencing that protects all our vulnerable ground nesting birds.
There is so much to see that if you don’t know where to start you may want to attend one of our events to help you find out more about this special place. Coming up we have a monthly Walk with the Warden, tours around Castle Water with the opportunity to look inside Camber Castle, as well as Easter holiday fun for the kids with an egg hunt, craft activities and rockpooling fun at Pett Level. You can download a full events programme online at or pick up our What’s On leaflet from Rye library, the Heritage Centre or from the reserve.
The other exciting spring development at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is, hopefully, the move of our visitor and staff facilities from our past-it’s-best Lime Kiln Cottage to some temporary portacabins based nearer to the car park. Vacating the cottage will also allow development of that site for our much-awaited new visitor centre over the next couple of years. Our hopes are that the new centre will not only provide a bigger space to receive our visitors and interpret this unusual landscape, but also provide a classroom for educational groups and a better working environment for our staff and volunteers.
Photos: Rye Harbour Nature Reserve