The kind winter and good spring has provided ideal conditions for breeding birds on the Hoo Peninsula this year.

Cliffe Pools is alive and well. We just completed a survey of the marine invertebrates for which the saline lagoons are nationally important. It is alive with the sound of avocets, common terns, black-headed gulls, and I was lucky to catch the rufous tail end of a nightingale flitting across the path yesterday, We have had over 20 pairs breeding again along the path edges. Long-eared owl chicks have been seen in recent weeks and wader hatchlings are doing very well. In three years the reserve has gone from no breeding lapwings to one of the largest breeding colonies in the country - that's a result of the new sluices, water level and habitat management. Bees are about, and with 18 of 24 species recorded on the reserve it is now worth checking what you see for the chance of a rarity. Identification can be tricky so I tend to snap a picture and then go to the books once home.  

We are keeping our fingers crossed for the black-winged stilts that bred for the first time on the reserve, and only the third time in the UK, but the four chicks have not been seen for a few days now and may have succumbed to predators; this is the way of things. We are all very pleased that the stilts found Cliffe Pools in the right condition to nest, and that we were able to protect the eggs up until hatching, and I take heart from the avocets all around them. The RSPB is 125 years old this year, and it all started with a handful of avocets that were going to become extinct in the UK. I don't doubt that those few pairs lost their chicks to predatos also, but with their own persistence, and ours, look what we have today! So, Cliffe continues to inspire and give me hope - with each year it is increasingly hard to remember that it was once a quarry and cement works - it is a truly special home for nature.  

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