Alright, it wasn’t his birthday on Sunday, but we were still keen to try to see as many species as Jeff’s years during our trip to Cliffe this weekend. We were about 15 species short in the end, but it was fun trying.
A dozen of us met at Cliffe car park in Salt Lane on Sunday for a walk with Ian and Sue. We did the usual circuit (with a short extension to the viewpoint below the radar). We started off well in the car park with wood pigeon, coot, kestrel, pochard, magpie, jackdaw, little grebe (at least 110) and starling. As we moved off along the track towards the viewpoint, great tit, chaffinch, greenfinch and robin were all found in the brambles and elders. Several jay flew over – in line with the large influx of jays currently in the country from the continent, on migration.
A green woodpecker was heard “yaffling” and seen a couple of times throughout the day. An indeterminate thrush flew over – no red was discernible, so probably not a redwing, but we couldn’t decide what it actually was.
As we continued along the side of Radar pool and Flamingo we added crow, cormorant, greenshank, redshank, great crested grebe, little egret, pied wagtail, black-tailed godwit in their 1,000 – 2369 have been counted by one local, teal, lapwing, ringed plover, mute swan, and oystercatcher.
Half way along the path a kingfisher was spotted flying across in front of us and promptly disappearing. After a while another sighting this time on top of a stick in the water – giving a great perch for some fishing! Most of us managed to get good telescoped views before it flew off once again.
Black-headed gull, herring gull, lesser and greater black-backed gulls were out in force. A group of around six females and one male wigeon fed and preened. Along the edges and islands of the pools we found dunlin, grey plover, golden plover and moorhen, A group of avocet flew in from the river, giving us great views as they swooped around before finally settling on the far side of the pool. As we continued a group of three stonechat moved ahead of us perching on the seawall and on tall plants.
We stopped for elevenses at the seawall beyond Flamingo pool and watched a huge flock of avocet on the river. There must have been over 500 of these delightful birds, taking it in turns to fly around then gathering on the surface, before taking off again. Interesting behaviour for such fragile looking birds, seeing them being tossed about on the tide in the middle of the Thames, and running the gauntlet of the huge container vessels plying up and down.
As we retraced our steps, the kingfisher was spotted again, this time near the new sluice hovering over the water as it hunted for fish – after a few moments it darted off again, giving us a brilliant view of its blue and red irridescence. Blackbird, long-tailed tit were additions to our list on the way back to the car park. We also saw migrant hawker, comma butterfly, red admiral and small white. There was a “red” darter, but that remained unidentified.*
At one point we also found a huge number of bumble bees and hoverflies around a sheltered area full of ivy flowers. They were making a great buzzing noise and totally focussed on feeding – ignoring our large group as we wandered past.
Sorry we couldn’t meet the challenge Jeff – maybe next year – although it gets harder every year! We did have a great kingfisher day though.
Thanks to Sue and Ian for leading another enjoyable visit to our nearest RSPB reserve.
* I have since read that the most probable Darter at this time of year is Common – which is what Malcolm thought it would be.