Trip reports

RSPB Cliffe Pools (Leader Warren Mann)

RSPB Cliffe Pools (Leader Warren Mann)
Avocet (Richard Hanman)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

It had started drizzling about 8.00am and as we approached our starting time of 9.00 am the rain was coming down with a purpose. The forecast was for this to continue throughout the day. I was only there as a late substitute for David Saunders, who had to attend a course on raptor monitoring. So, considering the weather, I was somewhat surprised to see that no less than five of our members turned up for the walk. They all took the attitude of "we are here now, so we might as well give it a go", so the six of us started out under grey skies and in steady rain. However, I couldn't but wonder where David gets his weather forecasts from.

Leaving the car park, we took a look at the Crystal Pool, and at first glance there did not seem to be much about but we added tufted duck, mallard, pochard, coot, little grebe and black-headed gull to the blackbird and goldfinch seen by an early arrival - Terry no less; it was great to see him out and about. We saw no birds in the scrub as we made our way to the Radar Pool, but we did add wood pigeon, herring gull and cormorant to our list. We scanned the islands and amongst the large number of black-headed gulls we found jackdaws, starlings, a couple of avocets, a single lapwing and small numbers of wigeons, but no sign of any Mediterranean gulls. Somewhat surprisingly a female pheasant flew out to join them. There was also a distant great-crested grebe in the water.

On Flamingo Pool, we saw a single male goldeneye with several females amongst the tufted ducks and the many pochards. We got better views of the goldeneye as we made our way up the track, and we also saw curlew, teal, gadwall and shoveler on the far side of the pool, and dunnock and robin in the scrub.

We had a look over the seawall at the causeway marking the end of Cliffe creek, and found redshanks and shelducks amongst the gulls on the mudflats. There was also a small flock of avocets at the distant mouth of the creek.

We made our way up to the top of Flamingo and to our surprise (and probably to that of the BBC weather persons) the rain slackened off, then stopped and a little later the clouds broke up to reveal a nice patch of blue sky. At the top of the pool was a large flock of coots, more teals, shovelers and lapwings, which all provided much closer views than earlier, but the only new species were oystercatchers and magpies. We continued to where the creek entered the Thames, hearing a skylark on the way. Our first cautious look over the sea wall succeeded in frightening off most of the avocets at the creek mouth, leaving just a couple with some gulls. From our vantage point we were able to scan the mudflats in the creek, the river and the reserve. There was a pair of reed buntings on a bramble brake, and single grey plover, black-tailed godwit and ringed plover on the mud at the edge of the Thames. A view of a distant kestrel was our first raptor of the day.

As the sky was now beginning to darken we decided to retrace our steps before we got soaked again. On our way back down the Saxon Shore Way we saw little egret, a black-backed gull (probably a lesser, but we did not count it), a distant marsh harrier on the other side of the Thames, and some rooks. In the scrub we heard a great tit, which brought our days total to 40 species. Not too bad considering the weather.

Warren Mann