The Rye Harbour Nature Reserve was established in 1970 and covers around 1,100 acres of saltmarsh and wetland habitat. It sits within the Dungeness, Romney Marsh, and Rye Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest. An amazing 4,400 species have been recorded on the Reserve so far, including more than 300 that are considered to be rare in the UK. Rye Harbour is most famous for its birdlife and there are breeding colonies of little, common, and Sandwich terns. Although the star of the show is the beautiful avocet. Thanks to conservation efforts, the populations of these (and other) ground-nesting birds have increased in recent years. It’s not only birds that can be seen at the Reserve – marsh frogs can be heard all summer long and Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats can be seen at night. You can also look out for the WW2 Pillboxes dotted around the reserve.
Average rating: 4.0 (very good)
Average cost: free!
Best time to visit: you can visit year-round, with the Reserve providing a home to ground-nesting birds in Spring and Summer, and migrating wildfowl and waders in Autumn and Winter.
How to get there: you can drive to the Reserve or take a train to Rye Railway Station which is around 1.7 miles away. There are a number of footpaths in the Reserve, meaning it can be accessed from Rye Town, Winchelsea Beach, and Rye Harbour. The ground is level and most paths have good surfaces, so it is good for those with limited mobility. There are also five bird watching hides – all of which are accessible to some types of wheelchairs. A new visitor facility, the Discovery Centre, has recently been opened.
Typical activities: bird watching, walking
Number of reports: 1
Last update: 2021
Wildlife in Rye Harbour
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the most popular species that can be seen here are:
Avocet – 100% OF WildSide users (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
Avocets became extinct in the UK in the 1840s thanks to egg collectors and taxidermists. However, in the Second World War, a bomb blew a hole in the sea wall at Havergate Island, just along the coast from the RSPB’s Minsmere Reserve. As the tidal river flooded in, it created the perfect conditions for this beautiful bird. Thanks to this and ongoing conservation efforts, they can now be seen in the East and South West of England. They have even become the logo for the RSPB following their successful recolonisation of the UK.
Rye Harbour supports hundreds of nesting avocets. They stand out from other birds in the Harbour due to their upturned bills, striking black and white colouring, and long blue legs – with Chris Packham calling them the ‘Audrey Hepburn of birds‘. Avocets can be found nesting in groups on islands in the Reserve or leading their young chicks to shallow, muddy water.
Photo credit: Nick Rowland under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr