Wednesday saw myself and Dave heading off to North Kent in search of the Lesser Yellowlegs reported at Cliffe Pools and the Spotted Crake at Oare Marshes. They were both new sites for us and the first, Cliffe Pools, did give us a few problems, both in the location of the entrance and car parking areas. Take a good map if you decide to go there. We ended up walking a couple of miles to get to the location of the bird, only to find that we could have driven to within a few yards of the viewing point.
There were three birders there when we arrived including Mick Davis and John Stanton. Although the Yellowlegs had been giving good views it had just been spooked and had flown to the back of the pool which was a bit of a disappointment. You could just about make out the bird looking through the binoculars but even with a telescope I could not really make out the distinguishing features. All I could say was that it was something like a Redshank but with lighter coloured legs.
It's always a bit difficult when you hit this situation. I know it was the Yellowlegs that I was looking at and Mick and John had "kindly" shown me pictures of what I had just missed, but my criteria is - see and identify the bird on the spot or take away suitable pictures for later identification. Given the lighting conditions and the distance involved there was no chance of a picture and at the moment I am not good enough to make the identification. So I dipped on this one. Disappointing as the same thing happened to me recently with the Sykes's/Booted Warbler at Climping.
Other than the Yellowlegs and a lot of Great Crested Grebes there was little else to look at on the site. I am sure it will be a great location in the winter but there seemed little point in spending much time there now.
Our second location was Oare Marshes. Easier to find and bird-wise a totally different prospect. If I had been wondering why there were few waders on the south coast I now had the answer, they were all roosting at Oare Marshes. It was difficult to take a picture that conveys the sight and sounds and we spent some time just looking at the roosting birds and various flocks as they circled over the marsh pools.
|A small selection of the birds present|
|Some of the hundred or so Avocets on the marsh pools|
|No landing space for the Black-tailed Godwits - I decided not to count them|
After a time we remembered why we had come to the site and set off for the East hide to see if the Spotted Crake was around. We spoke to a couple of birders who had been waiting an hour or so for a sighting. Fortunately we had timed it just right and the Crake made an appearance albeit very much hidden by the reeds.
|In its usual reed bed habitat|
The other birders all moved on and we were left waiting for the next picture opportunity. You always believe that the next picture will be better and this time we were proved to be right as the Spotted Crake made its way out onto the bank and disappeared under a thick bramble.
|Emerging onto the grass bank|
|Out in the open|
We stood around feeling pleased with ourselves and thinking that we would not see it again. We started packing to leave and then it stepped out onto the path in front of us and stood looking at us for a few seconds. Do you reach for the camera and risk scaring it away or do you just enjoy the moment? In practice we did something in-between the two and managed to scare the bird away without getting the photograph. Still a great moment.
A final few minutes looking at the birds as the sun started to go down finished of what had turned out to be a great day.