In bright sunshine and a brisk wind on Saturday July 30, 14 people joined warden Chris Bentley for a circuit around the short route at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
The highlights for most were close views from Denny hide of common terns with pebble-coloured chicks and more independent fledglings, while overhead flew screeching Sandwich terns on their way to nests at Ternery Pool and, more distantly, a few little terns dashed about over Flat Beach. All three species have enjoyed better breeding success this year than has recently been the case, thanks to improved numbers of sandeels out in the bay.
We also watched migrant common sandpipers at such close range that it was difficult to train binoculars down at the right angle, but in general the autumn migration was not much in evidence. Moulting adult black-headed gulls patrolled the creeks where little egrets were sleeping, a loud squalling flock of mostly brown juvenile starlings roamed about the salt marsh while goldfinches fed on thistles along its edge.
Chris pointed out some of our special shingle plants such as sea kale, sea pea and yellow-horned poppy as well as the prostrate forms of ivy-leaved toadflax and herb Robert, adapted to withstand wind-exposure. He managed to find an unusually tall but typically inconspicuous example of the very rare least lettuce just outside an enclosure designed to protect it from rabbits.
A puzzle was presented by the presence of a single specimen of marsh mallow out of habitat at the top of the beach. A possible explanation for its presence is the former seasonal presence of the Tern Watch caravan in that spot, back in the days when little terns nested out there and needed safeguarding (nowadays they’re more sensible and nest within the fenced area). During the winter it was stored in an area more suitable for marsh mallow.
The next Walk with a Warden takes place on Sunday, August 27 for a spot of pond-dipping and bird-watching at Castle Water. For further information visit the website. Binoculars are available to borrow.