Members of the Gravesend group assembled in the car park at Cliffe Pools on Tuesday, relieved that the extreme heat of the last few days had subsided and now was pleasantly warm; a more comfortable temperature in which to walk and bird-watch.
13 members set out and we were immediately greeted by a whitethroat darting about high in a bush, spotted by Sally. Here we also saw several butterflies; Large Whites, Small Whites, Gatekeepers and Red Admirals all flitted about dropping in on flowers to take nectar.
From the Pinnacle, Lapwings, Common Terns, Little Egrets and Gulls were seen at the edge of the pools or flying over them. A somewhat tranquil scene in the watery sun, anticipating the arrival of the passage waders which would certainly be livening the calm very soon.
A walk through the centre path of the reserve allowed views of Common Sandpiper, Great Crested Grebe and a grebe that the group finally decided was a Black-necked Grebe, which dived frequently, making identification difficult, but collectively we could see the more upright forehead.
As a group we frequently stopped to look at Migrant Hawker dragonflies, which were busy hunting for insects on the wing, taking them quickly into the branches of the trees to eat what they’d caught. This species tend to cling onto foliage, tail downwards, so it’s quite difficult to see them along the length of a twig or stem. We did look carefully to make sure that they were not the Southern Migrant Hawkers that had been reported from Wat Tyler CP, across the river in Essex.
On the odonate front, Common Blue Damselfly, Ruddy Darter and Common Darter were also spotted, the latter showing to be in their ‘over-mature’ stages, becoming a somewhat dull brown and showing significant damage and wear to wings. It was commented upon that at about 3-4 weeks, these insects were considered as old!
As we walked it was interesting to see the vast diversity of flora that Cliffe Pools has to offer, some of which were unexpected such as Ploughman’s Spikenard, which usually grows in more calcareous soils. Birdsfoot Trefoil was being visited by Common Blue butterflies and appeared to enjoy growing along the poor soil of the tracks on the reserve.
Some of the members decided that they were happy to return for lunch, whilst seven of us walked to the sea-wall for birds. I set myself the task of finding a Wasp Spider, which I’m happy to report that I did! These magnificent arachnids prefer the long grass, where a blundering grasshopper could become entangled in their recognisable webs with the zig-zag centre of silk.
On the walk back, Coot were seen and on the same pool we noticed a series of holes in the banks. We were curious to know what may use them and members decided that perhaps they may be from Brown Rats but until we spot one, it will remain a mystery.
Sally led an interesting and informative walk and we enjoyed it very much. Malcolm wasn’t in attendance as he’d been unwell. Get well soon Malcolm!