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Rare day at Rye Harbour

I headed over to Rye Harbour on Wednesday in the hope of seeing some of the variety of special visitors which have been on the reserve recently. I came back with rather more than I bargained for!

Heading towards the River Rother mouth, where a certain gull had been reported, I gave the Flat Beach a quick scan. One of the first birds I picked up in my telescope as I scanned left to right was a drake Green-winged Teal! I could scarcely believe it. This is an American duck which hasn't been seen in Sussex since 2011, and birders (including me) have dreamt of picking one out among thousands of Teal somewhere like the Arun Valley or Pagham Harbour. It's not the sort of bird you expect to just blunder into!

Green-winged Teal - the first in Sussex since 2011

The bird was with a small group of (Eurasian) Teal, at first some way away then they flew right towards us and settled on the near side. It was a great opportunity to study the differences between the two closely related species closely.

As well as lacking the horizontal white line above the flanks shown by its Eurasian cousin, the Green-winged had a vertical white line on each side of its breast. More subtle features included the much softer lines around the green face mask and the very fine vermiculations over the body, making it look darker and less coarsely marked than the more familiar species.

After putting the word out and enjoying the bird for a while, we had a coffee in the new Sussex Wildlife Trust's Discovery Centre to celebrate. We kept an eye out of the window but were soon itching to get back towards the beach to search for what we came for in the first place.

After a few minutes, the graceful white shape of the Iceland Gull appeared among the Herring Gulls over the shore and the bird performed a couple of thrilling fly-bys before vanishing again.

Iceland Gull

Heading round to Castle Water, the Black-necked Grebe was on view at some distance from the Halpin Hide. Another target bird tracked down. This bird has been there for months upon months, but is just now getting this year's breeding plumage and looking stunning!

Black-necked Grebe in breeding plumage

70 species were logged in this sometimes muddy eight mile walk. Other highlights included big flocks of Golden Plovers and Oystercatchers, a pair of quartering Marsh Harriers and a Raven feasting on a sheep carcass! Rye Harbour certainly never fails to delight!


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