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It was a pleasure to read my first email of the day! It was from a local chap, new to birdwatching, and keen to share with us his experiences when visiting Northward Hill and Cliffe Pools Nature Reserves yesterday. Thank you Tim Harris for writing to us and for allowing us to publish this for others to see.
The day was grey with the odd bright patch and the continual threat of a shower. Very mild for December and a slight breeze across the marshes. I got to Northward Hill at about 1pm and it was very quiet with a few assorted small birds in the trees and bushes and hardly anything else in sight. After a short walk towards the heronry with no luck I returned to the hide. Nothing in view except a large flock of geese towards Allhallows. Just as I was about to leave a kingfisher appeared from opposite the hide and shot off along the dyke.
I then made my way to Cliffe along the Cooling Road. Two male kestrels sat on telegraph poles between Cooling and Cliffe. The second posed as I took his photo, with the wonderful blue and red brown plumage all the better for the dull conditions. At Cliffe I drove through the village and parked halfway down the unmade track leading to the sea wall. In the pool nearest the road were a good selection of shoveler, mallard, pintail and pochard, clustered with a large number of coot. All were easily visible from the road. Further down, opposite the farm was a flock of about 100 lapwing which rose and landed several times as I watched.
Over the marshes to the east I saw the first of five marsh harriers. As I passed the farm there were a number of greylag geese and a mixed flock of lapwing, shoveler, mallard and pintail on a small island in one of the pools. Upon reaching the viewing point I had a view of all these birds and was machine gunned from all side by numerous wren. In the bushes alongside the track were large flocks of fieldfare. The shovelers were joined by a redshank which fed on the fringes of the reeds.
As it began to get dark I saw two marsh harriers towards the Thames. As they moved over the marsh they disturbed numerous flocks of small birds. As twilight slipped in I was joined by a barn owl which patrolled ghost-like along the fringes of the path and towards a large tin barn in the middle of the marshes towards Allhallows. As I watched I was amazed to see a short-eared owl come into the same field of view. It hunted beside the barn and settled on a gate post about ¼ mile away. I then saw it attack and drive off a marsh harrier. A wonderful raptor dog-fight taking place. Amazing!
After breaking off combat the short-eared owl flew towards the Thames, by the old gunpowder sheds and for a few seconds was joined by another short-eared owl, before they went their separate ways. Whilst this happened a couple of egrets re-positioned themselves on the eastern marsh and a lone kestrel hovered over the sheep fields to the north east. A formation of ten cormorant arrived from the direction of Southend and descended near the radar station.
As I walked back to my car the Barn owl again appeared before heading off to the north east. I was treated to one last spectacle, which I really shouldn’t be seeing in December - a bat, buzzed the fringes of the pool. It was medium sized, but I am not sure of the species.
So all-in all a brilliant afternoon, which rewarded a little patience. As a new birder I find Cliffe pools excellent. Good access and views allowing the novice the chance to take time to identify species and as a bonus the very likely possibility of being rewarded by something just a little special!
I hope this is of interest to you and goes to show that the hard work of the staff and volunteers at Northward Hill and Cliffe Pools is really paying off.
Tim Harris 14.12.2015
Posted by Marie C
Blog by Eric Brown
CLIFFE POOLS - Friday 21 August 2015
Group - Tony Dunstan, Eric Brown, Phil Cliffe
Weather - cloudy warm turning hot in the afternoon .Temp. 24-27C. SW breeze.
Time : 1040 - 1600 hrs.
We slowly slalomed around a host of potholes towards the observation mound speculating on how many more winters it would be before the black barn track becomes completely impassable to vehicles less robust than tractors or Land Rovers (Wardens note - the track from Pickle's Way to the Coastguard Cottages is a restricted byway and not owned or managed by the RSPB!! It is unfortunately in poor condition). When we arrived after the stomach-churning experience we were rewarded with a decent selection of waders mainly on black barn pool four where an amazing black tailed godwit roost almost rivalled Oare in numbers. While trying to ID a distant sandpiper a water rail flew into telescope view at the base of reeds. Perhaps the highlight was a flypast by a peregrine which passed over head before stooping repeatedly at a group of around 200 starlings on the north marsh. It didn't appear to catch any but the speed with which it regained height after each attack was breathtaking. After lunch we drove around to the old car park and walked down the path to Flamingo Pool, spotting a second spotted redshank on the way. We hoped for a wood sandpiper but could not see any although we did add Ringed Plover and several Whimbrel to our list.
Birds: wigeon, teal, tufted duck, pochard, mallard, gadwall, redshank, spotted redshank 2, Blk. Tailed Godwit (400), pied wagtail 5, little grebe (3), little egret (12), greenshank (6), avocet (200), water rail 2, common whitethroat (5), starling 600, common sandpiper (3), green sandpiper, ruff (10), common buzzard (2), peregrine falcon (stooping repeatedly at starlings on north marsh but didn't appear to catch any), swallow, sand Martin ,magpie , crow ,woodpigeon , collared dove, greylag goose ,oystercatcher ,moorhen , coot (300),grt. Crested grebe (20), chaffinch, goldfinch 8, linnet 4, reed bunting, whimbrel (5), BHG, Grt. Black backed gull (30), black headed gull, marsh harrier, ringed plover(3), shelduck, cormorant, crow, grey heron (2), kestrel, Cetti's Warbler.
CLIFFE POOLS, NORTHWARD HILL 14.7.2015
Eric Brown, Phil Cliffe, Janet Newiss
Weather: cloudy but warm 18c to 23c
9.50am to 3.45pm
Defied gloomy BBC website forecasts of heavy showers for the second successive week and were rewarded with another rain-free day. Highlights at Cliffe included the appearance of a black-winged stilt on the black barn pools and a brown cuckoo, possible juvenile or brown morph female, near the path to the black barn observation mound. Godwit numbers building up and good numbers of greenshank plus two spotted redshanks just beginning to moult their breeding plumage and several ruff with one black individual almost retaining summer plumage. There were also good numbers of butterflies.
9.50am Cliffe. Mute swan, Greylag, Canada and Egyptian Goose, Grey Heron, Mallard, Tufted Duck with Juvs, Pochard, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Avocet 35, Lapwing, Black winged Stilt, Oystercatcher, Ruff 10, Redshank, Spotted Redshank 2, Whimbrel 3, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit 120, Greenshank 10, Marsh Harrier M, F & Juv, Kestrel 2, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Common Tern 4, Black Headed Gull 200 inc juvs, Herrring Gull, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Whitethroat (singing), Reed Warbler(S), Reed Bunting, Skylark, Sand Martin 8, Swallow, Swift, Starling, Blackbird, House Sparrow, P Wag, Linnet, C Crow, Magpie, Long-tailed Tit 5, Stonechat pair with juv. TOTAL 54.
Butterflies: Meadow brown, gatekeeper, large white, green veined white, marbled white, peacock, red admiral.
1.45pm Northward Hill. M Swan, Canada, Greylag Geese, Mallard, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier M, F, Hobby, Ringed Plover 5 inc juvs, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Rook, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Swift, Green Woodpecker 2ad one juv, Gt Spotted Woodpecker(feeders), Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Stock Dove, Pheasant, Chiffchaff.
Butterflies: Meadow brown, gatekeeper, large white, green veined white, marbled white, peacock, red admiral, comma, small tortoiseshell, ringlet, Painted lady, hundreds of cinnabar moth caterpillars, 4 spot burnet moth.
For details of the latest recorded sightings at Cliffe Pools please use the link below to the Kent Ornithological society website:
Murray Orchard, a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic birder and volunteer of the RSPB, conducted a bird count at Cliffe Pools on Sunday 24th August confirming the following sightings:
Avocet 1,425 (Flaming Pool / Ski Pool), black tailed godwit 875 (Ski Pool / Black Barn Pool), common redshank 166 (Elf Pool / Conoco Pool), grey plover 48 (Ski Pool / Flamingo Pool), black tailed godwit 1 (Ski Pool), dunlin 27 (Ski Pool), sanderling 1 (with the dunlin), ringed plover 6 (Flamingo Pool), greenshank 12 (mostly on Radar Pool), common sandpiper 1, green sandpiper 1 & teal 245 (Ski Pool / Black Barn Pool), garganey 1 (Black Barn Pool), shoveler 16 (Ski Pool / Black Barn Pool), pochard 23 (Black Barn Pool), little egret 43, marsh harrier 4 (Black Barn Pool / marsh), whinchat 4, stonechat 1, Cetti's warbler 1, linnet 145 (marsh / roadside scrub).
On Alpha Pool there were at least 4 fledged common terns on the islands. Two adults with fish appeared to be attending unseen young within the vegetation. 43 adults were feeding on the Thames by the fort / jetty.
We apprecaite Murray sharing this information with us, if you have a story to share or details of what you've seen at our reserves send them to us at email@example.com
Dave Carey has kindly shared with us details of some of the birds he spotted at Cliffe Pools yesterday evening. These include a male Ruddy Duck from the Black Barn viewing mound this evening, as well as 2 Curlew Sandpiper still with their rusty red chests, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 11 Dunlin, 12 Ringed Plover and 2 Grey Plover, with about 600 Avocets and 100 Greater Blacked Gulls on Flamingo, and 4 Common Tern roosting with the Black-headed Gulls there, also a Green Sandpiper on a ditch alongside the Meadway, and finally about a dozen Greenshank on Radar Pool, close to the Black Barn.
If you have any sightings you wish to share, please email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to the fast upload of information on the KOS website, I can share with you sightings recorded by Mike Puley between 10.00 and 12.00 today. Mike recorded 6 ringed plover, 1 grey plover, 3 bar-tailed godwit, 12 whimbrel, 48 curlew, 32 greenshank, 1 green sandpiper and 4 common sandpiper. You can visit the Kent Ornithological Society's website at http://birdgroups.co.uk/kos/News.asp
Thanks for the reserve. Much improved since I was there last in 2007. I had forgotten how far it was all the way round!! I hope the attached info is of some use.
Total species experienced 60
Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Spoonbill, 2 Black Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Hobby, Pheasant, Coot, 4 Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, 5 Ringed Plover, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, 6 Common Tern, 2 Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, 2 Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Blackbird, 3 Stonechat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Bearded Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.
RSPB Cliffe Pools:- Spoonbill, 2 Black Swan, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Hobby, 4 Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, 5 Ringed Plover, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew, Redshank, 6 Common Tern, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Cuckoo, Sand Martin, Swallow, 3 Stonechat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Bearded Tit. – PRH
Posted by Rolf W RSPB
So far this morning, the following have been sighted at Cliffe Pools; 1 spoonbill, 9 grey plover, 10 bar-tailed godwit, 5 whimbrel, 2 spotted redshank, 4 greenshank, 2 cuckoo, 2 lesser whitethroat. Information kindly provided by KOS. You can visit their website for more local sightings data at www.birdgroups.co.uk/kos/News.asp
Grid reference: TQ7275 (+2km)
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