Meeting up at 5am in Cliffe church car park may not be everyone’s idea of a good morning out, but 7 others joined me despite storm Hannah forecasted earlier in the week. We started the morning with clear skies and the songs of blackbird and wren from the car park. Sunrise was only 24 minutes away, so perhaps we should have started earlier (not!) and as we walked along Pickle’s Way leading up to the Radar Pool, the dawn chorus was in full swing with blackcap, lesser whitethroat, wood pigeon, blue tit, chaffinch, goldfinch all singing along with wren and blackbird. Overhead our keen listeners picked out Mediterranean gulls flying out with black-headed gulls from the large gull colony on their morning sorties. Chiff-chaff joined the chorus as we approached the Radar pool, a pheasant gave an alarm call and then we heard our first nightingale of the day. Despite scanning the nearby bushes, this one proved typically elusive.
We continued under the cliff, picking out our only song thrush of the day. The most productive part of the walk was along the path heading out to the ‘flamingo’ pool. We were to hear a further nine nightingales singing with varying prowess. Here is video of the ‘third’ one – typical views of a nightingale singing 😉
And here is a recording of the ‘ninth’ one – to my ears he sounded like he needed to brush up on some of his classic phrases! [PS: you will need to visit the website to hear these links]
On the pools we saw a flock of 50 or so avocet and the large black-headed gull colony with some med. gulls in among them. Also redshank, ringed plover, lapwing, shelduck, tufted duck, mallard, little egret, grey heron and curlew. A pair of sandwich terns flew over head calling and a few swallows skimmed over the pools. As we approached Cliffe Creek, the wind was picking up and we hurried along to the relative shelter of the seawall further along. Whitethroat continued to sing along with linnet and skylarks. Birds of prey spotted were kestrel, buzzard and marsh harrier. A whimbrel was found on the inner parts of the reserve. Further along the Mead Wall some of us got a brief view of a cuckoo flying fast towards cover. We eventually caught up with it from the viewing mound; it was smugly perched out of the increasing wind, while we were standing facing straight into the wind. I think the cuckoo had the better idea! We picked up the songs of sedge and reed warbler, but saw neither; most birds were hunkering down by now. Our last sightings were a fox walking near the black barn and sparrows and starlings as we arrived back at ‘civilisation’.
Breakfast beckoned and some of us decided to frequent the cafe on the Buckland lake for a deserved cooked breakfast and a mug of tea or coffee. The total species tally was 48 and it was only 9:30am.