A lovely sunny winter’s day led us to Cliffe on Wednesday. We initially started from the RSPB car park and moved off towards the railway which supports the Brett Aggregates plant. Magpies, chaffinch, wood pigeon and blackbird were seen in the car park. On the pool nearby large numbers of coot, little grebe, pochard, tufted duck and black-headed gull were seen. I could hear a distant skylark, but it’s song was drowned out by the lorries at the nearby gravel works.
At a nearby farm new born lambs enjoyed the sunshine, bleating their contact noises to keep mum close at hand. In the fields beyond Sally spotted a couple of mistle thrush feeding on the ground. A song thrush sang from a tree in the hedgerow. Dunnock, robin and blackbird were also seen.
Beyond the railway line and the gravel works we found shelduck, little egret, coot, and little grebe. Here there were more skylark singing high above us, a delightful sound on this springlike day. On Alpha pool Malcolm spotted a different grebe which turned out to be a black-necked. As we watched a second bird appeared in partial breeding plumage, so a probable pair. Lovely birds to see especially when not in full winter plumage.
As we approached Cliffe Fort we found grey plover, curlew, black-headed gulls, oystercatcher, black-tailed godwit, great black-backed gull, shelduck, teal, and a huge number of avocet, at least 750 were counted by Malcolm. At least 45 redshank, a turnstone, and several gadwall.
After a picnic lunch by the river, we moved on to Cliffe Creek and Flamingo Pool. More redshank and teal fed in the creek. The muddy rills provide a valuable feeding ground for them.
On Flamingo pool the goldeneye we saw a few weeks ago were still present, two of the males were giving half-hearted displays, but nothing to match the great sights of our last visit. Reed bunting, blackbird, chaffinch, coot, shelduck, little grebe, pochard and long-tailed tit were all seen from this area, along with a couple of familiar faces; Roger arrived from one side and Graham and his uncle from another at the same time. After an exchange of our various sightings, which included a great spot from Roger of a greenshank at the far side of the pool which had a colour-ring. This is the bird which had confused us earlier in the year when we could see a distant wader with what appeared to be a red leg. With low light giving bad visibility, we realised this was probably the bird we had been watching. A second (unringed) greenshank flew in shortly after.
As we ended our trip, at the inland end of Flamingo we spotted a large number of pintail. Several others flew in as they were presumably arriving for their night roost. Over the Black Barn pools a lapwing was seen displaying – another sight of spring.