What to Look For
It is usually the weather that has the greatest influence in what you will see around Rye Harbour Nature Reserve in the winter.
If the weather has been mild it may still be possible, in sheltered places, to find the flowers of Red Valerian, Yarrow, Winter Heliotrope or Gorse. On warm days butterflies, such as Peacock, or even bumblebees may be tempted from hibernation.
If the weather has been cold many birds will be forced south, so look for flocks of Brent Geese and many ducks, especially Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and perhaps Pintail. A rare one to look out for is the Smew.
Offshore, Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebe, Gannets, and Guillemot may be fishing, especially after winter storms and great rafts of Common Scoter will be swimming in long black lines, often accompanied by Eider or the occasional Velvet Scoter.
Along the Beach Reserve there may be large flocks of small birds, such as Greenfinches, Linnets and Goldfinch. Look out for rarer ones, like Twite, Lapland and Snow Buntings. Birds of prey are attracted by these smaller birds so you might see Merlin, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owls and Peregrine, as well as the more usual Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.
At Castle Water, especially near the viewpoint, there may be wintering Stonechats and Chiffchaff. In the reeds there look and listen for Cetti’s Warbler, Water Rail and Bearded Tit. Dusk is the best time to look for Little Egrets and Bittern.
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