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Shoveler Anas clypeata, drakes in flight, Norfolk, AprilLovely weather for ducks as a record number lands at RSPB Cliffe Pools

The North Kent Marshes are a vital winter retreat for European ducks and waders that escape the frozen north, a birdwatching spectacle that has drawn ornithologist Murray Orchard to Cliffe Pools for the past forty years. This month Murray counted 720 of one of the UK’s most attractive ducks, the Shoveler, dispersed across the flooded clay pits.

Murray said, “This count is probably the highest at a single site in Kent since 1961. In my experience, the last two winters have seen the largest gatherings of waders and ducks in the history of Cliffe Pools. I have never before seen so many Shoveler in one place at one time; the total is four times the national threshold and almost twice the international threshold for conservation significance.”

The male Shoveler has an enormous beak and striking plumage and is normally seen in much lower numbers, less than a hundred, than the other species of duck.

The clay pits became an RSPB reserve in 2000, and are unique in the Thames Estuary for their saline lagoons. Murray lived near Cliffe for thirty years and regularly travels down from his home in Hertfordshire; counting birds on this scale takes experience and patience, skills Murray has honed since the age of 12 when he started birdwatching in his garden. Murray said, “Seeing these Shoveler was a great pleasure but they were hard to count, taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend will be a much simpler task.”

Cliffe Pools recently attracted 10,000 Dunlin at high tide, which Murray described as “twisting and turning like a huge cloud of smoke over the pools,” and 9,000 Black-tailed Godwits were recorded last winter. The information gathered by enthusiasts such as Murray, and all those participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, provides a finger on the pulse of nature in the UK, buying time to respond to conservation threats before long term damage is done to UK wildlife.

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Harpella forficella by Ross Newham

Harpella forficella by Ross Newham

A species of moth not previously seen in Kent and known only by its Latin name Harpella forficella has been discovered at Kent Wildlife Trust’s Holborough Marshes nature reserve, near Snodland. This striking cream and brown moth, native to Europe, was found by amateur naturalist and Trust volunteer, Ross Newham. Ross undertakes moth recording at a number of Trust reserves across West Kent, with all records helping to build up a detailed inventory of the species in the area. Using this information, conservation bodies can then study the biological records available to plan the management of sites. More

Two events are coming up at Northward Hill thanks to the RSPB, if you can get there, you really will enjoy both. They are fun and educational for the children (and an adult if I’m honest) and a great way for them to appreciate and develop a feel for the environment.

BWSO Final lowres

W&CF poster 2013 FINAL lowres

There can be very few people that think an airport anywhere on the Peninsula is a fantastic idea. If you would like to see why this area doesn’t need an airport and to get to appreciate some of the beauty that surrounds us, most often within walking distance of our homes, click the link below. It will take you to a Council publication that shows some circular walks on the Hoo Peninsula, some are good just for the view others will have you walking through history that in some cases goes back several thousand years. It may only be some coppiced woodland or the very path that you are walking on but many of us believe it should stay that way.

CLICK HERE

A Walk in the Woods Week 27 October – 4 November 2012
This autumn, the Ramblers are holding a festival to celebrate British woodland and encourage families to enjoy the simple pleasure of a walk in the woods. A Walks in the Woods Week runs from 27 October – 4 November, with free led walks taking place across Great Britain, it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the colours and wildlife of local woodland in the crisp autumnal air – and keep the whole family active this half term. More

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