Trip reports

Coach trip to RSPB Cliffe Pools on the 9th January

Coach trip to RSPB Cliffe Pools on the 9th January
Short-eared owl by Magnus Andersson

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Some pictures from the RSPB Central London group outing to Cliffe Pools, Kent, on a mainly wet day on Saturday 9th Jan, 2016.

The birding however was great and we got over 65 species at the latest count, even if the weather didn't exactly play nice at times.

Dawn was breaking as we left London Embankment at 08:00 and the days birding started proper around 10:00 by the St Helens C Of E Church in Cliffe village where we got Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Collared Dove and Great Tit. We scared a Kestrel off the church tower but enjoyed the varied chatter from House Sparrows and Starlings in the trees and bushes.

Leaving the village behind we got Song Thrush, Jackdaw, and Redwing. We also heard Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Blue Tit and Goldcrest.

By the first pool on Mead Wall we saw Lapwing, Dabchick (new word for me, AKA Little Grebe), Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler, Coot, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Teal and Little Egret.

A distant Marsh Harrier could also be seen, and Pipits of some sort flew overhead, perhaps we saw Meadow (later definitely confirmed), Water and Rock Pipits, but we never got a good look at them.

At times we also saw up to a thousand birds on the wing, mainly Lapwing, Grey Plover and Golden Plover, but also Black-tailed Godwit and a variety of ducks, including Pintail, Wigeon and Gadwall.

Dark clouds had started to gather ahead of us as we neared the Thames. A Peregrine swooped overhead, a Cetti's Warbler were heard in the reeds along with Reed Bunting, and Linnet flew across the meadows. Rook and Stock Dove was seen in the far fields. Even further away, a Buzzard was seen climbing the air over the Gateway Port.

It had started raining when we got to the Thames sea wall and we saw Stonechat, Curlew, Greylag Geese, Redshank, Mallards, Gadwall, Grey Plover, Dunlin and Oystercatcher.

A local birder that we met also reported seeing a Kittiwake behind one of the large ships. We never saw it but gull-wise we had Black-headed, Herring, Common, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Another local birder reported seeing a small group of Fieldfares the day before, but no such luck for us.

Two Peregrines flew together across the Thames and another sat on a nearby gate in the rain. The drizzle was now a steady downpour, rendering binoculars, scopes, glasses and cameras useless, so lunch was declared at 13:00. Soggy Sandwiches and Rain-infused Tea was thoroughly enjoyed.

Shortly therafter, a Short-eared Owl performed well for a few minutes during a short dry spell in the weather and a Marsh Harrier hunted towards us.

Moving down to Cliffe Creek we initially saw one wintering Avocet on one of the pools, and then another two landed in the creek, so there are at least three of them around.

By this stage the weather had improved to light showers. On Radar pool there were several Goldeneye about and a Kingfisher flew low right in front of the group across the water.

Finally we climbed the little hill to enjoy views across the reserve and then headed back along Pickle's Way. We got treated to 3 or 4 Goldcrests at very close quarters before boarding the bus for the return journey at 16:00.

It was muddy and wet at times, yet a great day out, and we walked over 11km on the reserve. Many thanks to the organisers and all the nice people that I met! I learnt a lot, got some nice pictures and my camera and lens survived the monsoon.

To see Magnus's full bird list and see his pictures taken on the day please follow this link.