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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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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

On Tuesday October 30TH BBC Radio Kent is hosting a community debate so you can have your say on the future of aviation in the south east. A panel of experts will come together at the Cliffe Memorial Hall near Rochester. Doors open at 6pm. If you’d like to be in the audience, you can request tickets by emailing radio.kent@bbc.co.uk or by writing to BBC Radio Kent, The Great Hall, Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1QQ. Admission is strictly by ticket only. Tickets are FREE but are limited to a maximum of 2 per person and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please follow the link below to an article by Ian Jack on the Website of The Guardian newspaper

CLICK HERE

Airport Image 1 by artist Kevin Clarkson. Thames Estuary airport exhibition

A series of stunning images will starkly set out the devastating impact a huge hub airport could have on Medway and wider Kent. More

Following last month’s crisis meeting concerning the drought conditions across the south east of England and today’s announcement of imminent hosepipe bans, the RSPB is urging Kent’s residents to ‘Step up for Nature’ and save water in their homes and gardens. More


Click on the image above to be taken through to the Friends of North Kent Marshes, from there you can easily find your way to letter and email templates that can be sent to your local M.P, George Osbourne and others. It is possible that the soon to be delivered budget will put the plans into consultation, if you act now it may still be possible to stop that happening.

Volunteers from the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship in Victorian costume will attend the RSPB Country Fair. More

The weekend of the 5th December saw a huge amount of activity down at the RSPB Reserve around Cliffe Pools, More

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