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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. 24.08.21. A Ruff!

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

I went with a friend to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve (Sussex Wildlife Trust) on Tuesday 24.08.21; we both know the reserve well. My friend has much more experience and knowledge of birding than me; so its always great to go birding together as I learn a lot on these joint outings.

When we arrived (13.00) it was at the height of high tide; and this enormous vessel entering the port is a reminder that Rye Harbour is a working port as well as a nature reserve!

We walked past the saltmarshes to the Gooders hide to look over the Flat Beach, we then walk on to the Denny and Parkes hides to look over the Flat Beach and Ternery Pool, and then walked past the Salt Pool and new Saltmarsh to the Discovery Centre for tea and cake. After cake we walked around Castle Water and visited the Halpin Hide; we then walked back around the Long Pit and Narrow Pit.

There were lots of Oystercatchers on the Flat Beach, with many Great Black-Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls behind them

A Small White Butterfly on Yellow Ragwort

From the Parkes Hide we saw this beautiful Little Grebe (Dabchick) juvenile

and this amazing Riff (juvenile female?) This was the first time I have seen a Ruff.

and two Greenshanks

One of the Greenshanks and the Ruff

and we saw some Dunlin

and Ringed Plovers

As we were walking to Castle Water we saw this Buzzard; it was initially sitting on a fence post and then flew off.

Here's a Ladybird

There were lots of Buff Tailed worker Bumblebees (this one on Yellow Ragwort)

and some very large mushrooms.

On Castle Water there were Great Crested Grebes and Tufted Ducks

and Egyptian Geese

Great Black-Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls

From the Halpin Hide, we saw a Grey Herron, very close to a Cormorant!

and many Lapwings

and some Gadwall ducks (in the middle between the Cormorants and Lapwings and Heron Gulls)

and lots of Coots - this one very wind blown

and Shoveler Ducks in eclipse plumage

Eclipse plummage is temporary or transition plummage.

Ducks are peculiar in that they moult all their flight feathers; the long, wing feathers; at once. For about a month, they can't fly and very vulnerable to predators.

To provide some protection, particularly for the brightly-coloured males, the moult starts with their bright body feathers. These are replaced by dowdy brown ones, making them look much like females.

This eclipse plumage is why in mid-summer, it seems as though all the drakes have gone.

Once the flight feathers have regrown, the birds moult again, and by October the full colours are back and the various species of ducks are easily recognisable once more. Phew! Moulting Ducks | What is Eclipse Plumage? - The RSPB

These Cormorants are drying their wings

Cormorants ... apparently use spread-wing postures only for drying their wings and not for thermoregulation. Although cormorant plumage also retains water, only the outer portion of the feathers is wettable, so an insulating layer of air next to the skin is maintained when cormorants swim underwater. This difference in feather structure may explain why cormorants can spend more time foraging in the water than ... and why cormorants can inhabit cooler climes, Spread-Wing Postures (

This Cormorant is lying down; not a behaviour I have seen often.

White-fronted Cormorants are juveniles.

a Grey Heron at the back of the water

and we saw lots of Little Egrets

A great day of birding.



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