For the few of us that managed to battle through the traffic jams to reach Cliffe Pools, Salt Lane we enjoyed a very pleasant evening walk around the site.
The traffic was caused by a fatal accident much earlier in the day on the London bound A2, which was still causing every small road around Chalk and Lower Higham to be jammed with vehicles going in the opposite direction.
The weather was warm, clear with a gentle breeze. And the tide was high. It was almost as if we had planned it that way!
A couple of very shy dunnock and robins were spotted as we made our way to the pinnacle. From here we could see large flocks of waders on the pools but too distant to see well, so we continued on to the path running up between the pools.
Our first stop, on Radar Pool, picked up black-tailed godwit, redshank and eventually we got on to a single greenshank, having first heard its characteristic three-note call. There were great crested grebe, little grebe, tufted ducks, mallards and teal out on the water. A common sandpiper flew past to get itself added to the list, but was not seen again.
At the far corner of Radar Pool was counted some 50 black-tailed godwits and could see approx 30+ avocets. On the next pool, so called Flamingo Pool, we counted over 60 curlew, more godwits and redshanks. A few lapwing were about and we found a splendid grey plover still in its summer plumage. Looking back at Flamingo Pool from the Thames end, where the water levels are shallower, we found 5 dunlin, and family units of shelduck. This is the time of year when the more unusual can turn up, so we worked hard on the dunlin – were any curlew sandpipers? Were any of the redshank of the spotted variety? Was that greenshank smaller than usual? But in the end we settled on their commoner cousins.
Flying overhead we saw several groups of little egrets heading off across the Thames. Is there a roosting site on the Essex side?
Also here were some gulls (mostly black-headed) and gave us the opportunity to compare lesser black-backed gull with the much larger great black-backed gull.
We were treated to a beautiful orange sunset on the way back to the cars, and picked up kestrel, canada and greylag geese.
We packed off home, the traffic having cleared, at 9pm.
Thanks to Bruce for the photos.