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Nature Notes - June 2017

Nature Notes

Continuing with the marine theme, sea-birds are moving along the coast; generally, from west to east during May.  They are following the fish and heading for breeding grounds.  These birds include Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Arctic Terns, Little Terns, Pomarine Skuas, Arctic Skuas, Black-throated Divers, Red-throated Divers, Great-northern Divers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Scoters Velvet Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, Whimbrel and Gannets.  They have spent winter at sea and on coasts in warmer latitudes.  Some of these birds may be understandably unfamiliar to some readers; because in order to see these birds it is usually necessary to be on a suitable beach at about 6:00 am on a sunny calm morning in May with a pair of good binoculars and a telescope.  This can be rather cold and frustrating, but when the birds start to appear, it can get quite exciting.  Observers often post their sightings on the Sussex Ornithological Society on-line web-pages.  Popular beaches include Selsey Bill, Splash Point in Seaford and the beach at Rye Harbour. 

These and other sea-birds are heading for their breeding grounds, a few of these birds breed on Sussex beaches, but such sites are very rare.  Others are heading for North-West Europe, and in the case of some of the Arctic Terns – the Arctic Circle and the Svalbard archipelago.

It remains that marine habitats are fragile, and when they are close to Human populations, they get disturbed by visitors, boats, fishing, dredging and other Human activities.  It is often difficult for these birds to find a quiet spot to lay their eggs and raise a family.  This is why such places as the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve exists and volunteers protect the habitats from too much disturbance.  However, it is often possible to watch from special hides strategically placed to protect the birds but allow visitors to see them nesting and raising their young.  Entry to Rye Harbour is free, but a good level of fitness is required to walk around the site which takes a minimum of about 3 hours for a reasonably fit person.  There is a visitor centre where information can be obtained and simple refreshments and souvenirs can be purchased.

Understanding and protecting nature has never been more important as the Human population continues to increase beyond 7.5 billion.

Dr. Martyn Stenning