It was great for a change to set off in beautiful settled conditions with blue skies and plenty of sunshine. Whereas mid-week had seen some very warm summery temperatures it was tempered on this day by some blustery easterly winds.
We had a different coach driver to normal. Competent at driving but his navigation was not so hot. Fortunately after going around a brace of roundabouts a couple of times as we neared Rye we were able to steer back on course and we only lost about five minutes.
Walking along Rye Harbour Road we scanned the purslane beside the Rother for Yellow Wagtails but sadly none were seen though a single Meadow Pipit landed here. Looking the other way opposite the information centre was much more productive. Three Avocets actively fed in the water while behind the pool there were three Whimbrel and a Golden Plover moulting into breeding plumage. Ringed Plovers, Redshank, Oystercatchers and a small flock of Dunlin were other waders noted in this area. As birds flew up a Peregrine passed through which the volunteer said roosts on the cliffs at Hastings. As we moved along another ten Whimbrel flew in giving some good views.
Also seen here were three Wheatears sitting on a fence + dropping down to feed. Quite a few Linnets and some Skylarks also freqented the short turf and sparsely vegetated shingle. The first of quite a few Swallows passed over into the stiff wind- always a welcome sight.
The Ternery Pool was full of activity as expected at this time of year. Large numbers of Black-headed Gulls were in occupation of many of the islands with several pairs of their larger cousins, the Mediterranean Gull. This fairly recent colonist is such a handsome bird in breeding plumage. We did witness one pair mating and when flying above us in the blue sky they looked brilliant white with a black head. The calls too are pretty distinctive.
On one of the small circular islands 18 Common Terns were roosting while on the near bank adjacent to the hide were c100 Sandwich Terns. Twice we observed all the terns fly up in a noisy panic, the flock tightening up. At first we thought maybe the Peregrine had returned but as the many Oystercatchers which were next to the terns stayed put, this theory didn't seem likely. No obvious cause could be found but it was impressive watching the terns swirl around.
Also from here there were several immature Black-tailed Godwits, three Bar-tailed Godwits on an island and a single Grey Plover. At least three members were lucky to see two Cuckoos silently fly from near one of the hides.
The small woodland area was fairly quiet with Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing. Walking down the track beside the Long Pit we heard several Whitethroats with a couple revealing themselves- the first of the year for many of us. Sedge and several resident Cetti's Warblers were also heard singing.
Several of us decided to walk back up the road to visit Castle Water. Behind a rather unsightly large factory we followed the footpath to where we believed the viewing point was situated. After some initial confusion due to the vegetation growing up we did find the right spot. A Garganey which had been present wasn't spotted but we did see a pair of Marsh Harriers over the reeds and heard our first Reed Warbler from a small pool where a pair of Coots had some chicks. A lucky few from the group heard a booming Bittern earlier in the day here.
This area was more sheltered from the wind so we did find quite a few butterflies with Peacock the most numerous. Also recorded were Small Tortoiseshell, Small and Green-veined White and my first male Orange Tip.The short sward was a purple haze of Ground Ivy flowering which was appreciated by the various bees.
Returning to our bus several people treated themselves in the Gallery café while those of us dedicated to our craft saw our first House Martin of the year.
A great day out to a fine reserve but sadly not well supported. Only 27 members booked of whom 24 were able to make it on the day. Hopefully future trips will receive more bookings as without support of members (and their friends) the future of such trips will be in jeopardy which would be a tragedy. Thanks to allwho supported and enjoyed this day out.