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Sussex Scrapbook ~ Wildlife walks throughout the year
Green Man
Saturday 11th February 2006
Rye Harbour

We took the bike 60 miles to Rye Harbour, which is one of the best places in the whole of Sussex for seeing birds of all types. We avoided the area next to the sea today and concentrated on the area inland around a group of lakes and water-filled gravel pits known as Castle Water. The area is famous for being one of the few places in Sussex where the rare and secretive Bittern has taken to living. This large bird is so well camouflaged that it is very hard to spot them in their reedbed homes. We were hoping to see one in flight when it flew to it's roost at dusk, although the chance even of that is small.
The moment we got off the bike and put on our binoculars we saw a Marsh Harrier flying overhead. We love Harriers and we got a really good view. Walking around Castle Water we saw shovellers, lapwings, shelduck, great crested grebe, tufted ducks, canada geese and lots of cormorants. From the hide that is near the ruins of the castle built by Henry VIII we saw our second highlight of the day, a male and female smew. The male is a very distinctive bird but is much more rarely seen in this country than the female. I took a photo, but it didn't come out too well. My photos of birds never do! From the hide we also saw pochard, curlews, little grebe and gadwall.
The weather started getting extremely cold, so we decided to cut the day short and miss out on the chance of seeing a bittern. However, on the way back, I saw some horizontal lines in the vertical reeds about 100 meters away. I investigated with the binoculars and guess what?? It was a bittern. We quickly set up the telescope and watched it skulking in the reeds for 20 minutes. I really don't know how I managed to find it, as even as we were watching it, it kept on disappearing as if by magic.  
What a successful day, and what a gorgeous place too.

Here's the map! We went from the bittern watchpoint to the hide and back.

A view across Castle Water to the Castle itself.

The castle wot 'Enry built. It used to be beside the sea, but that is now a mile away.

A view from the hide at Castle Water.

Here's my crappy picture of a male smew.

We got to see the bittern just before dusk. Lucky eh!

Can you see the Bittern in this picture? They are sneaky and fantastically well camouflaged.