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Wild Rye: Discover Our Wetland Wildlife

Bittern in Winter

Reedbeds for Bitterns

Loss of reedbed habitat during the last century had resulted in a decline in many species and in particular the Bittern. Their numbers in England have risen recently, thanks to concerted action by conservation organisations. Still, in 2004, there were only 55 booming male bitterns. Eight organisations have joined forces as the EU LIFE Nature Reedbeds for Bitterns Project to make sure that this bird continues to increase in number.

life.jpg (3447 bytes)Rye Harbour Nature Reserve is one of the 19 sites in England that are participating in the project. More details can be found on the project web site.

The excavation at Castle Water took place in August and September 2003, during a long dry period of weather. We excavated about 50,000 cubic metres of soil from a dry area, down to the water table, creating a network of deep channels and shallow areas. The channels link up with the gravel pit to allow free movement of fish. The spoil was carefully placed in deep water to create shallows and 78 new islands. See the area shortly after excavation.

The work was undertaken by F.L. Gamble & Sons Ltd. using 2 excavators, 1 bulldozer and 3 big dumpers. See photo.

Smaller scale works have been carried out since 1992, when SWT bought Castle Water. The table below summarises the progress with creating wetland there.

Wetland Creation at Castle Water

1992 2002 2003
Wetland area (m2) 251,595 304,553 404,093
Number of islands 9 14 92
Island area (m2) 10,448 36,724 69,275
10,000 m2 = 1ha.

Bittern at Rye Harbour

Bitterns are generally present from November to March - see graph - but in the last three years we have had individuals present during the summer, so we are hopeful that one day soon a pair will stay to breed.

The Funding

EU LIFE Nature funding was 50%. Thanks to the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex County Council, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Sussex Ornithological Society and RSPB for funding this project, especially during the difficult periods when it looked like it would not take place!