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Wild Rye: Discover Our Wetland Wildlife

Bittern in Winter

The Reserve Wildlife

With a great variety of habitats it is not surprising that there is such a wealth of wildlife on the Nature Reserve.

Latest wildlife sightings can be found here.


The Beach Reserve is recognised as having one of the finest examples of coastal shingle vegetation in the country. Particularly in late May and June the beach is transformed by a colourful array of flowers, the striking Sea Kale, and Viper's Bugloss, the delicate Yellow Horned Poppy and carpets of Sea Pea to name only a few. Along the river's edge is a good example of tidal saltmarsh vegetation and going inland a little, the gravel pits and drainage dykes provide more variety in the form of waterside and aquatic plant life. Around Camber Castle there are the unique ancient shingle ridges that have a very specialised flora. In all more than 456 species of flowering plants have so far been recorded on the Nature Reserve, including 27 scarce species and two ENDANGERED species, Least Lettuce and Stinking Hawksbeard.


Where there is a good variety of plant life, there usually exists a correspondingly good variety of animal life. Studies carried out on the invertebrates have shown Rye Harbour Nature Reserve to be of outstanding National Importance. 2,321 species have been noted so far, including 209 Notable species and 56 Red Data Book (RDB) species - such as the Spangled Button Beetle and the Medicinal Leech. However, there remains much to learn and there is a lack of detailed knowledge about most of the rare and notable species.


Of the larger animals on the Reserve perhaps the one most commented upon is the Marsh Frog (to be heard noisily croaking all summer - listen to it at multimedia), while another is the Brown Hare, a regular sight on the beach throughout the year. At night the Reserve is the domain of Badgers, Foxes and Bats.


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However, Rye Harbour is most famous for its bird life and in particular its breeding colonies of the rare Little Tern (in logo), the Common Tern and, in some years, the Sandwich Tern. In recent years the populations of these terns and other ground nesting birds (such as Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing and Wheatear) have increased in number and breeding success. This has been achieved through careful habitat management and implementing conservation measures such as the erection of anti-fox electric fencing enclosures and the enlistment of about 80 voluntary helpers to carry out protection wardening. So far more than 279 species of birds have been recorded on the Reserve, of which over 70 have nested. Apart from the interest of the breeding birds, Rye Harbour is also a good place to observe bird migration, while in winter large numbers of wildfowl and waders gather to take full advantage of the relatively undisturbed Reserve area.