On Sunday September 14th, local ornithologist Murray Orchard counted 2,450 avocets roosting on the high tide at RSPB Cliffe Pools. This beats the UK record by more then 400 birds and accounts for one third of all the avocets that spend the off-season in this country.

This spring Cliffe also accommodated 124 breeding pairs of avocets, the largest colony counted in the UK.

So, summer or winter, RSPB Cliffe Pools is currently the best place for this iconic RSPB bird.

It is a remarkable success story for the beautiful wader that was the inspiration for the charity when it faced extinction over a century ago. Its success at Cliffe Pools is the result of huge investment. By acquiring and fluming into the saline lagoons dredgings from the river, we have created beaches that the birds roost and can feed along. Newly installed sluices have allowed us to alter the levels of the pools, causeways become islands, and by managing the vegetation on those islands avocets are breeding in increasing numbers. The birds have only a short flight out to the Thames and Medway estuaries to feed. 

The avocet spectacle comes off the back of other recent significant Cliffe bird events, 10,000 dunlin last year, and 9,000 black-tailed godwits the year before that.

The avocets may have used an easterly wind to jump across from the Netherlands. Their arrival reminds us that the Thames Marshes are an integral part of the Great East Atlantic Flyway, one of the world's five great flyways, and this huge bird movement heralds the autumn migration.

We sigh with relief that that the  estuary has been spared further talk of an airport but, the EU is looking to erode the very legislation that offered it protection, the Special Protection Area. There is talk of merging the Habitats Directive with the Birds Directive, any weakening of these crucial protections will only encourage the next round of development threats for the estuary.

So... keep a weather eye on RSPB Cliffe Pools. We still have much to do at Cliffe, for example to improve the numbers of chicks fledging successfully and to shallow more of the pools for birds. We continue to rely on your support, be that sightings, photographs, volunteering, campaigning and fundraising. Thank you for everything so far and take credit in the bird spectacles when they occur.

 

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