There were 16 of us on this evening walk to our local patch. Although the gates to the car park were locked, we managed to find space for safe parking at the Salt Lane entrance and were soon on our way. Paul had been delayed so Jeff and Malcolm started to lead the group off along the reserve border towards the Saxon Shore Way.
A large group of goldfinch flew overhead as we convened and then seemed to follow us through the car park. Our first stop to look out over Conoco pool held great crested grebe, lapwing, oystercatcher, common sandpiper, cormorant, pochard, starling, coot and little egret – not much left to look for when you get a start like that! Gatekeeper butterfly and large white were flitting around the brambles and martin and swift were flying above us. Every so often our attention was taken by the usual wood pigeon, of which there were many.
As we moved along towards Radar pool Paul caught up with us as more little egret appeared and several grey heron flew off as we moved down the track. A common sandpiper was spotted and flew towards the middle of the pool, as it did so a further 6 were spotted on another island and everyone had chance for good telescoped views. Mallard were numerous and a creche of shelduck chicks, 9 in all, were being chivvied along by an adult. Scanning along the side of the pool with telescopes enabled us to find many redshank, several ringed plover, a turnstone, little grebe, greenshank, and in the distance a large group of greater black-backed gulls with one lesser black-backed in attendance. As we continued towards Flamingo pool Andy mentioned that this particular area had always been good for kingfisher – within seconds one was spotted flying low and direct away from us just above the water and keeping close in to the edge of the bank. We started a wish list and asked Andy if he could work his magic on a few other gems for us.
Over 100 black-tailed godwit were feeding and later most of them flew over us as the tide receded, a kestrel hunted on the far side of the pool and as we neared Cliffe Creek a green woodpecker called and then flew across the track in front of us. Four cormorants flew over in aircraft formation.
By far the most amazing sight of the evening was the sheer number and beauty of the avocet. Huge rafts of them were feeding in patches along the far edge of Flamingo swinging their heads from side to side as they sifted through the water. As the evening wore on more groups flew off towards the river over our heads, giving great views – truly magical.
At the creek we added black-headed gull, curlew, more redshank, and a couple of grey plover. As the sun set and the light started to fade we turned back towards the car park with our eyes scanning the fields on the right-hand side in the hope of catching an owl, but even with Andy’s powers we couldn’t summon one up – still there’s always next time.
Thanks to Paul, Jeff and Malcolm for jointly leading and for all those who attended – especially Andy for the kingfisher.