Ten members met at RSPB Cliffe Pools car park. Although it was not too cold, it was very murky and raining heavily as we all arrived. Whilst getting sorted out, woodpigeon, herring gull and a magpie were seen. At 10am, miraculously, the heavy rain almost ceased as we went and looked over Crystal Pool. Here we saw, among others, little and great crested grebes, pochard, tufted ducks and moorhen. A dunnock was heard. We walked along the access road and up to the top of the Pinnacle noting blackbird and robin on the way. From the top there were lapwing on the pool below and a pheasant seen on the path back down. Along to the viewpoint over Radar Pool we saw shelduck and more little grebes. A buzzard was seen by some of us. From there we ambled along the centre path in the direction of the sea wall seeing a mixed flock of goldfinch and chaffinch. Among them was a male reed bunting. We looked out over both Radar and Flamingo Pools from the viewpoints and added shoveler, pintail and goldeneye along with a large number (60 or so) of great black backed gulls mixed in with lapwing. A marsh harrier and another buzzard were also seen.
At the end of the path we saw a mixed flock of fieldfare and redwing flying in the hedge tops – very nice to see them so clearly as we had been noting them flying around most of the morning, but not getting good views of them. We then looked over the sea wall where there were a number of redshank quite close by with a grey plover and some dunlin in the distance on the mud of Cliffe Creek. A curlew flew past and a flock of starlings was seen. We went along the wall a bit further to look at the end of Flamingo Pool and saw teal and more shoveler, wigeon, tufted ducks and a cormorant with its wings outstretched. It was then time to go back to the car park and plan for the afternoon. We decided to have lunch at Northward Hill where we could at least stand under the open barn roof. We were met by some noisy house sparrows in the car park and there were more good views of redwing and fieldfares.
A rather pretty moth had settled by the RSPB office door which was identified, with the help of intern Joe, as a Mottled Umber. We decided to go to the Ernie Hemsley viewpoint where white fronted geese had been seen, but we were not lucky. We did see and hear a green woodpecker on the way. There had been sightings of both red and black necked grebes on the Alpha pool which is next to, but not part of, the RSPB Cliffe Reserve. We decided to go there and walked from the back of the Bretts industrial site. On the way gadwall were seen. At the top of Alpha pool we looked around and with the help of telescopes a possible sighting of a black-necked grebe was made. But the light was very poor and it was a good distance away. A bird watcher hove into view, walking along the Saxon Shore path from Cliffe Fort. He had seen pairs of both grebes at that end of the pool just 10 minutes before, but it was too late for us to go. We did, however, get to see the first grey heron of the day.
Finally, with the light fading, we returned to the cars to finish a rather damp, but none the less, very enjoyable day out, with around 46 different bird species seen.
Peter and Karen
Thanks to Karen and Peter for leading the walk and writing the report. Thanks to Steve, Sally and Karen for the photographs. I didn’t notice it a the time but what a great bench! On its last leg(s)!