|A mirage of waders, Cliffe Pools RSPB 21/2/14|
The bright, clear skies seemed perfect for Buzzards and it wasn't long before two appeared over the reserve. Hearing a distant mewing cry, I scanned and picked out one thermalling in high over the Cement works and another near Cliffe village. At the Thames Viewpoint the river was ablaze in harsh, late afternoon light and buffeted by increasing gusts of wind but on the more sheltered marsh eight Corn buntings (and likely as many more) showed well on a clump of brambles. It's always great to see these birds that blend so well into the drab colours of winter but whose rattling songs are too rarely heard here in spring.
Elsewhere a few Fieldfares lingered still on the skeletons of fruitless hawthorns and a Stock Dove flushed from the grass on the back track. The final spectacle of the day emerged over Cliffe Marshes in the distance where a large, sweeping flock of starlings, many thousands strong, stirred restlessly. It was the most I've seen in the area for some time.
|Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) spooked by a passing Marsh Harrier|
|Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) on the fence by Black Barns|
Staying local, yesterday I made my Medway WeBS count from Hoo and Kingsnorth. Conditions were good, although the glare of the sun over the estuary made things difficult at times. The highlight was undoubtedly a large flock of Brent Geese which topped out at 531 after birds roosting on the marsh were flushed off during my count by a dog walker. A single Egyptian goose was in with them and a couple of Canada's but I couldn't detect any pale-breasted birds in the poor light. Otherwise the Teal flock remained steady at 170 birds while 186 Shelduck, 92 Oystercatcher and 5 Great Crested Grebes were also present. The most unusual encounter of the morning though was a single Dunlin which flushed out just yards ahead of me on the sea wall, I'm not used to seeing them so close. Other birds in the area included numerous skylarks and a flock of c130 Woodpigeon. At Kingsnorth Power Station a juvenile Marsh Harrier was being mobbed by rooks and the escaped Harris Hawk was still present in the paddocks by the sewage farm.
The final part of my count area is adjacent a small pocket of woodland that creeps right down the water's edge. It looks dense, diverse and largely untouched but a big 'Private' sign prevents me from exploring further. I don't like signs like this and I'm equally confused that the wood appears to be owned by a 'Residential Marine Ltd'. Maybe I'm just paranoid...