Apr 272017

Myself and nine others met in the pre dawn twilight outside Cliffe church. As we made our way down Pond Hill we were greeted by the pre-dawn songsters: wren, blackbird & robin which were soon joined by song thrush with its repeated phrases.

A cuckoo called but was not seen in gloom and we continued to make our way to the “radar pool” .  Here the raucous calls from the large black-headed gull colony were unmissable.

Gull Roost at Cliffe early morning

Flying out from the colony Sue pointed out the different call of the Mediterranean gull – a new call for me. Later as we made our way on the path between the pools we picked them out in the colony – once seen the differences with black- headed gull are clear with their black ( not brown) hoods, white eye ring and deep red bill.  Also on the pools and around the margins we saw common tern, little egret, grey heron, waders including redshank, greenshank, dunlins in summer plumage with their black bellies and black-tailed godwits in splendid crimson.  Smart black and white avocets sweeping their upturned bills from side to side, oystercatchers probing their bright orange beaks deep into the mud and ringed plovers running around the sea grass.

It was along this path that we heard several nightingales and although we did not see them we could stood very close  to where they were singing from.  I made this recording from the same spot two years ago – this year I forgot to save it 🙁

(if you are reading this post as an email you may need to click on the title link to go to the website in order to be able to listen to the recording).

We also heard and saw lesser whitethroat and whitethroat, blackcap, chiffchaff and later, on the return leg, sedge and reed warblers.

Sedge Warbler

Other notable sightings included a pair of grey partridges (apparently rare for Cliffe), wheatear, stonechat and some fine views of a short-eared owl quartering and sitting on several fence posts. We returned via the (in name only) ‘black’ barn with skylarks singing above us and a final sighting of cuckoo from where we originally heard him at the start of the morning. We were all finished by 10:30 and had accumulated a total of 59 species heard or seen – and all before breakfast!