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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

A Spoonbill, a Goldeneye, Lapwings, Redshanks and Snipe. Rye Harbour. 21.12.21

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

I have travelled hopefully, looking for reported-on-by-Bird-Guide's Spoonbills, on four occasions over the last few weeks; twice at Pagham Harbour (RSPB) and twice at Rye Harbour (Sussex Wildlife Trust). The first three occasions yielded no Spoonbill, although on the last time, at Rye Harbour I had just missed one, as another bird there told me that he just seen one. On all these occasions I wasn't particularly disappointed to have not seen a Spoonbill, as I enjoy whatever I see. But just as I was going to give up looking for a Spoonbill yesterday, and get a coffee in the lovely new Discovery Centre, after an excellent day of birding, having seen a Goldeneye (a life list bird for me), and some beautiful Snipe, and lots of Redwings and Lapwings, I looked back down the Salt Pool, and there was a Spoonbill.

The photographs are in the order that I tool them. I walked around the reserve from the Harbour Road entrance (point 15 on the map below; along the path past the Castle Water than on to the Halpin Hide (point 11), then west to the path to the beach (points 10, 9, 8 and 7), and back along to the path by the Long Pit. At the junction of the path, at the beginning of the Narrow Pit (point 16), I turned right (south) to the Denny Hide (point 3); then I walked back down the path between the Salt Pool and the New Saltmarsh, then on to the Discovery Centre.

As in all my posts the photographs are intended to remind me of a good birding day out; and promote conservation.

You can read my other posts on Rye Harbour here:

(map from Sussex Wildlife Trust)

Birds seen: Robins, Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Mallards, Wigeon, Teal, Shovelers, Gadwall; Shelducks; Lapwings; Redshanks; Curlew; Little Egrets; a Spoonbill; Oystercatchers; Magpies; Carrion Crows; Starlings; House Sparrows; Cormorants; Herring Gulls; Black-Headed Gulls; Great Back-Backed Gulls.

A Robin just past the Reed Bed viewpoint,

Rye from the footpath to Castle Water

Castle Water

A Teal?

Some Coots

Canada Geese

The canada goose is a large goose, with a distinctive black head and neck and large white throat patch. An introduced species from North America, it has successfully spread to cover most of the UK. It forms noisy flocks and is often regarded as a nuisance in areas where large numbers occur on amenity grassland and parks. Population: UK breeding: 62,000 pairs; UK wintering:190,000 birds. Canada Goose Facts | Branta Canadensis - The RSPB

Camber Castle.

More Canada Geese

Cormorants, with Herring Gulls; Great Black-Backed Gulls, some Teal and Great Crested Grebes

A pair of Tufted Ducks

Greylag Geese

Fungus - Timber Mushroom in the sun

Cormorant; and the wind turbines on the east side of the River Rother


Camber Castle

From the Halpin Hide (south of the Castle)

Inside the hide.

Lapwings and a male Shoveler Duck

A pair of Wigeon and a male Shoveler


A Moorhen

A female Shoveler

Lapwings and Shovelers


Snipe are medium sized, skulking wading birds with short legs and long straight bills. Both sexes are mottled brown above, with paler buff stripes on the back, dark streaks on the chest and pale under parts. They are widespread as a breeding species in the UK, with particularly high densities on northern uplands but lower numbers in southern lowlands (especially south west England). In winter, birds from northern Europe join resident birds. The UK population of snipe has undergone moderate declines overall in the past twenty-five years, with particularly steep declines in lowland wet grassland, making it an Amber List species. UK breeding: 80,000 pairs; UK wintering:1 million birds. Snipe Bird Facts | Gallinago Gallinago - The RSPB

A Goldeneye, in front of Shelducks

The goldeneye is a medium sized diving duck. Males look black and white with a greenish black head and a circular white patch in front of the yellow eye. Females are smaller, and are mottled grey with a chocolate brown head. In flight, birds show a large area of white on the inner wing. First nested in Scotland in 1970, and since then birds have been attracted to nest in specially designed boxes put up on trees close to water. In winter, birds from Northern Europe visit the UK. UK breeding: 200 pairs; UK wintering:27,000 birds. Goldeneye Duck Facts | Bucephala Clangula - The RSPB UK Red List

A Gadwall

The gadwall is a very grey-coloured dabbling duck, a little smaller than the mallard, and with an obvious black rear end. It shows a white wing patch in flight. When seen close up the grey colour is made up of exquisitely fine barring and speckling. It nests in low numbers in the UK and is an Amber List species. UK breeding: 1,200 summer nesting pairs; UK wintering: 25,000 birds. Gadwall Bird Facts | Anas Strepera - The RSPB

A Moorehen

More Snipe (same birds as the earlier photos - I walked back to the Halpin Hide, after a brief ten minute walk southwards, to take some more Snipe photos)

Lapwings flying over Gadwall

A Lapwing and, a Shoveler and a Wigeon


Cormorants and a Herring Gull

Lapwings, Shovelers, Teal and Herring Gulls


(the sounds of Lapwings)

Lapwings and Shovelers

Shovelers and Herring Gulls

More Shop photos (the same Snipe)

Lapwings (and Herring Hulls)

From the path to the beach


Flight Lieutenant Harry Raymond Hamilton died on 29th August 1940 when the Hurricane he was flying crashed near the ruins of Camber Castle. Harry came from New Brunswick, Canada. He was just 23, but was already an experienced pilot, having joined the RAF in 1936. Fl/lt. Harry R Hamilton | Sussex Wildlife Trust

The Barns

A sheep

The Salt Pit

Little Egret and Coots











Curlews, I think the most beautiful of the UK's waders are greatly in decline (like Lapwings) and need our help.

There have been worrying declines in the breeding population throughout much of the UK, with the Breeding Bird Survey indicating significant declines in Scotland, England and Wales, and an overall UK decline of 42 per cent between 1995 and 2008.

Earlier surveys recorded a 60 per cent decline in breeding numbers in Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1999.

Curlews are also declining more widely across their global breeding range and, consequently, their IUCN status is near threatened. The species is a UK BAP priority, and is Amber listed due to the international importance of both breeding and wintering populations in the UK, its unfavourable conservation status in Europe and the declines in UK breeding numbers.

Within the UK, curlews breed on a range of habitats but are primarily birds of extensively managed rough grasslands, moorlands and bogs. The bulk of the breeding population (around 60 per cent) occurs in Scotland, with the majority of the remaining birds in northern England. Curlew Conservation - The RSPB

A significant amount of research has gone into investigating curlew populations and reasons behind their declining numbers.

The evidence to date suggests declines are largely due to poor breeding success alongside the loss of breeding grounds.

Like many wading birds, curlews lay their eggs in a nest on the ground – known as a ‘scrape’. The parents incubate the eggs for about four weeks, before the young leave the nest and roam around with their parents for a further four weeks, until fledging.

Studies from across Europe have found that in most cases breeding pairs are failing to raise enough young to maintain stable populations.

Egg predation by mammals and birds has emerged as a key factor behind poor breeding success. However, this abundance of predation is in itself associated with changes in land-use and management.

Farming is essential to maintain the mosaic of grassland and wetland habitats curlews need, but large-scale grassland improvement ultimately leads to the degradation and eventual loss of breeding habitat. Changes in grazing pressure can also have a more direct impact in the form of nest trampling by livestock.

Other changes in land use can lead to loss and fragmentation of breeding habitat, especially forestry. Whilst predation may not be the only factor driving the decline, it is clear that in some areas where predators are controlled, curlew populations are faring better.

The RSPB, along with the UK’s statutory nature conservation agencies, believe the curlew should now be considered the UK’s highest conservation priority bird species and a recovery programme is urgently required.

Efforts made to save our curlew population will play a critical role in the global conservation efforts. Conserving and managing the mosaic of habitats required by breeding curlews is likely to benefit a wide range of other flora and fauna. Curlew Recovery Programme Conservation Project - The RSPB

Please consider how you might help these birds; through practical conservation, or campaigning and lobbying on preserving their habitats; just spreading the word on how much many world birds are declining due to loss of habitat and climate change helps.

Curlew and Teal


Spoonbills are tall white waterbirds with long spatulate black bills and long black legs. In flight they fly with necks and legs extended, in the water they feed with elegant sideward sweeps of their bill. In the breeding season adults show some yellow on their breast and bill tip. The species is of European conservation concern and a very rare breeding bird in the UK. They are listed are listed on Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. Most birds migrate south in the winter, but numerous individuals remain and winter in Western Europe. UK breeding: 0-4 pairs; UK wintering: 81 birds Spoonbill Bird Facts | Platalea Leucorodia - The RSPB

Spoonbills are named after their bizarre spatula-like bill. Generally feeding in flocks, they swing their slightly open beaks from side to side through shallow pools of water. Their remarkable bill is packed full of sensors attuned to the tiniest vibrations, and once located, unlucky beetles, crustaceans, worms, small fish, tadpoles and frogs stand no chance of escape. Although they bred in East Anglia during Medieval times, spoonbills had not bred in Britain for over 300 years until 2010, when a small colony was discovered on the north Norfolk coast. Conservationists crossed their fingers that the birds, originating from the Netherlands, would return again. They are now a regular summer visitor! Spoonbill | The Wildlife Trusts



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