A relatively short trip (44 miles) today to Cliffe Pools. All three of the rarer Grebes had been reported intermittently throughout the previous week on Alpha Pools.
We took the footpath alongside the Conoco Pools and spotted our first Avocets of the new year. Another scan of the water's edge added two Common Sandpipers busily feeding among the hundreds of lapwing. Eventually, we found our way to Alpha Pools. Scanning the pools proved very challenging, with a severe headwind buffeting my glasses against the scope eye-piece and the water surface was proving just as challenging with the winds sweeping across straight off the Thames. Little and Great Crested Grebs were abundant but we did manage to find three Black-necked Grebes among them. I had a very brief view of the Slavonian Grebe but failed to relocate it. The Red-necked Grebe proved the most frustrating. I thought I had the bird in the scope, only for it to dive almost immediately and I failed to re-find it among the very choppy water. So the Red-necked won't make it onto the year list!
It was a short drive from here to Northward Hill another RSPB reserve. This site proved very quiet and the only bird seen of note was a male Marsh Harrier.
We decided to cut the visit short and head for Leybourne Lakes CP. A Ring-necked Duck had been present on Abbey Meads Pit. We parked in the pay & display car park and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was only £1.20 for a four-hour stay. Abbey Meads Pit was the furthest Pit from the car park
We followed the main path and eventually arrived at a railway crossing. A quick step over the wooden stile and we were standing by the Southern edge of Abbey Meads Pit. There were numerous Tufted Ducks at the Southern end of the Pit and luckily the Ring-necked Duck was found amongst them.
A decent days birding, the very strong winds whipping across the Thames didn't help to locate the Red-necked Grebe at Cliffe but other than that an enjoyable day.