Trip reports

Motney Hill, Riverside CP and Cliffe Pools RSPB reserve, Kent 31 March 2018

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

In fact our birding started in the car park where an estimated 50 house sparrows were found and the first of the day's green woodpeckers was yaffling away.

We drove round to the Motney Hill car park where a chiffchaff was singing close by and then spent two hours or so birding along a few hundred metres of the earthen seawall to the base of the said hill (whose summit towers a full 15 metres above sea level!) and back. The seawall commands a very extensive view to the left across the Medway Estuary, which is over 4km wide at this point, while close by on the right is a shallow, reed-filled lake. Although high tide in the estuary wasn't much more than an hour away as we began our walk, a vast expanse of mud flats was still exposed, but the incoming waters advanced very quickly driving waders closer inshore and encouraging many small parties of wildfowl nearer. There were good numbers of collared doves on the shore. Out on the mud we could see many shelduck, curlew and oystercatcher along with redshank and grey plover. A turnstone and dunlin could also be made out. Teal were close in while a goodly number of Brent geese could be seen in the distance as were a few great crested grebes. The gulls in the estuary were mainly black-headed and herring with an occasional common, lesser black-backed and even a great black-back. A couple of Mediterranean gulls flew over the reedbed area, where a Water Rail was squealing away and Little Grebe and Coot were found. There was a kestrel hovering over the 'hill' and about 10 linnets landed on the wires. A skylark could be heard singing away unseen, as was a reed bunting (at least it calls it a song). As the tide advanced we found or first black-tailed godwits, a few pintail, wigeon and shoveler and a pair of red-breasted merganser. Just before we got back to the car park a blackcap was singing (at least one person managed to see it) and a siskin called briefly before flying off.

It was then back to Riverside CP where we walked out along a narrow, 600m-long spit to reach Horrid Hill at its tip. This diminutive prominence hardly seems to warrant so impressive a name, but it nevertheless offers fine views over the estuary. The birds were pretty much as before although we did add distant lapwing and cormorant to the daylist. As we walked back to the cars we found about 30 turnstones roosting on a boat and ten two snipe flew over and landed in view on a small island. Some of the Group also saw three buzzards here.

From here we drove to the RSPB reserve at Cliffe Pools on the Hoo Peninsula, adjacent to the Thames. On the way a few Starlings, first of the day, were seen as we passed through Wainscott. After a brief lunch stop overlooking Crystal Pool, we made a leisurely circuit among the flooded clay-pits, passing Radar Pool, Flamingo Pool, Cliffe Creek and the Conoco Pools. The start and finish were filled with the noise of thousands of black-headed Gulls that were setting up territories on the islands along with an estimated 30 Mediterranean gulls. We were able to add various waterfowl to the day's tally in the form of greylag and Canada geese, gadwall, tufted duck, pochard and a pair of scaup. There were also an estimated 200 avocets and many black-tailed godwits roosting on the pools before flying out to feed at Cliffe Creek as the tide receded. A single drake goldeneye was found and we had distant views of kestrel, buzzard and marsh harrier. Around the Flamingo Pool area (no flamingos these days I'm sad to say) we had more dunlin, redshank, oystercatcher and lapwing with skylarks again singing away unseen and a couple of starlings were on the 'beach'. On the field to the south of Cliffe Creek our only Egyptian geese of the day could be seen.

In the end between them the Group managed to find 72 species including the flock of 15 ring-necked parakeets noted by the occupants of one cat as they drove away from Cliffe.
Report based on information from John Birkett and the leader John Parish.