Last Tuesday the group visited the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools. We were greeted in the car part by a nightingale in full song – a rather good start to the day. The breeding colony of black – headed gulls on the islands was very impressive (and noisy!) with about 2000 pairs. Keen gull watchers amongst us also found the mediterranean gulls (apparently about 80 pairs) and also some common terns. We had a keen young birder and naturalist with us who was really enjoying the walk up to the moment he fell in a nettle patch.
Prior to that, however, Jack had helped find a glow-worm. These appear to be common at Cliffe – some years ago, the first one that I saw at Cliffe was also brought to me by another young naturalist at one of the Cliffe Open Day events. Glow-worms are beetles and this is the female. She glows to attract males – but only at night. By day she is a lot less impressive (in my opinion).
Julie found this very unusual ladybird on white bryony plants. It didn’t take long to realise that it was a bryony ladybird – naming insects is so easy!
Neither Julie or myself had seen one of these before. I thought that this would be the first record of this ladybird in Kent. Later, however, Julie discovered that it had been found in Kent once before in 2018 – at Cliffe! Needless to say it is yet another alien species, that arrived only a few years ago. Previously restricted to parts of London and Surrey it is obviously on the move now. Abroad it is a pest of melon plants but in England, so far, it has only been recorded on white bryony.
Lots of other bird species crowded in around us – avocets with fledglings, cuckoo, blackcap and sedge warblers. We counted over 150 shelduck loafing around the pools. What are they doing?
And talking of alien species brings me to this picture of a little egret flying across the pools. This species arrived to breed in England at much the same time as the bryony ladybird. But Steve seems to be specialising in photographs of flying little egrets! I used one of them in the Wicken Fen report. Do have a look at the little egret photograph in that report (best if enlarged). Compare it with the photograph here. What do you notice? The answer is in the “lores” – how amazing is that!
Thanks to Steve and Sally for the photographs.