Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Field meeting reports
Picture of Salicornia ramosissima
Examining the Salicornia ramosissima. Photo: Helen Proctor

Meeting date: 12 August 2018

(Leaders: Barry Yates and Helen Proctor)

A strong southerly breeze and mostly overcast sky kept the group of nine warm and dry all day. Barry Yates, the warden of this Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve gave us a brief introduction. The main objective of the meeting was to survey the newly established saltmarsh. The Environment Agency constructed a sluice gate and raised the bank, allowing seawater to flood this seventeen hectare site. After seven growing seasons, the area is now becoming well vegetated with saltmarsh species.  Salicornia ramosissima (Purple Glasswort) could be positively identified from early flowering plants and was much photographed. Both Spergularia media and S. marina (Greater Sea-spurrey and Lesser Sea-spurrey)were growing side by side for easy comparison. Other species which are becoming established include Aster tripolium (Sea Aster), Atriplex portulacoides (Sea Purslane), Juncus gerardii (Saltmarsh Rush), Puccinellia maritima (Common Saltmarsh-grass), Parapholis strigosa (Hard-grass) and Suaeda maritima (Annual Seablite). A few plants of Spartina anglica (Common Cord-grass) were seen. This grass will increase and eventually need controlling as it reduces the amount of bare mud. Barry told us that bare mud was needed for sea shrimps, the food of Redshanks. Leaving the saltmarsh, we walked along the riverbank where Elytrigia juncea (Sand Couch) occurred where shingle hid the sand. Amongst the many maritime plants seen were Euphorbia paralias (Sea Spurge), mats of Frankenya laevis (Sea-heath), Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) and Atriplex littoralis (Grass-leaved Orache). We were surprised to see Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) here. Further on, Barry showed us a few Rye Harbour specialities. Crepis foetida (Stinking Hawk’s-beard) was seriously past its sell-by date. Lathyrus japonicus (Sea Pea) on the shingle ridge was much reduced, having suffered from the winter storms, Lactuca saligna (Least Lettuce) was visible in an enclosure where rabbits are excluded in the summer months.

See also the account of the return visit in September