Mucking and Cooling

The mudflats at Mucking that run north from Coalhouse Fort support a great flock of avocet as well as smaller numbers of shelduck, curlew, knot, dunlin, redshank and grey plover. The birds are safe from disturbance as the mud is separated from the coastal path by a stodgy stretch of saltmarsh.

A peregrine roosts on the abandoned gantry at Mucking wharf; on a grey afternoon, a large female hunts the estuary at high tide, hanging over a flock of dunlin and ringed plover that shelter on an inland pool before harrying a dunlin in mid estuary, after failing with that sortie it patrols the estuary edge trying and failing to scare something into the air.

On the Kent side near Cliffe, a female merlin is within inches of what is likely a meadow pipit. She turns in ever tighter circles before stooping and missing again and again before losing her quarry in a bank of tall reeds. The wide reed-edged fleets hold marsh harriers, teal and kingfisher. The great pasture fields near the coast are largely empty, save for a handful of pipits and skylarks together with noisy roving flocks of rooks and jackdaws . Small flocks of Canada, greylag and a dozen Egyptian geese occupy a huge field closer to the escarpment at Cooling.

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