After getting home on Monday from a ten day safari in Zambia, I was keen to get back out in more familiar surroundings as soon as I could.
Terry suggested a trip to Cliffe Pools this morning to try our luck with Wheatears and Whinchats, both of which were eventually found. Unfortunately, despite deploying our very best and most cunning field skills, we were unable to get close enough for meaningful pictures.
Other birds seen during our hot walk around the reserve included a Hobby which effortlessly cruised along the dykes picking off unsuspecting dragons and damsels. Three Marsh Harriers who also hunted the reed fringed dykes for their preferred prey. Kestrels who seemed to accompany us at all times, a Buzzard and a probable Merlin chasing a probable Pipit, probably catching it and causing mass panic among a large flock of Avocets.
Unlike our last visit Clouded Yellow butterflies were much thinner on the ground with just five or six seen. Still more than usual in previous years. Common Blues were by far the most common species but a lot were a bit worn and past their prime. They have my sympathy, I know how they feel.
Towards the end of our wanderings we passed a small, stagnant looking pond, miserably adorned with old car tyres, plastic bottles, beer cans and other trappings of our 'civilised' lifestyle. Only Migrant Hawker dragonflies thankfully unconcerned by this human detritus made it worthy of a second glance. Being the eternal optimist that he surely is, Terry suggested that maybe a Southern Migrant Hawker, a species already seen on site this year, that had so far eluded a tick on our Kent list, could be lurking among the now inaptly named Migrant Hawkers. And sure enough, after a few minutes he had spotted a blue eyed suspect patrolling and defending a patch of reeds and brambles on the left side of the pond.
We gave it some space and it soon settled, allowing a few photos for a positive ID. A much better picture of this rare migrant, taken by Terry, should be on display on the KOS wildlife gallery later this evening.
As for Zambia, well, what can I say. A fantastic, unforgettable, wildlife packed, wonderful adventure in a very friendly and stunningly beautiful country. This was a trip to celebrate our Ruby wedding anniversary. I just hope we don't have to wait another forty years before we return. I'll try to post some pictures of some of the countless birds and animals that we saw as soon as I can.