well at least two of them are...
It only seems a few weeks ago that we were embarking on another breeding season and now that it has finished I thought it was time to reveal this years results.
As the title suggets it has been a bumper year for the 'special' breeding species with the key ones doing very well. Avocets and marsh harriers have had a cracking year and two new breeding species for the reserve were recorded (all will be revealed later).
Avocets were first recorded breeding at Titchwell in 1984 but since the late 1990's their numbers have increased dramatically. This year has seen record numbers nesting on the brackish marsh with a peak of 79 nests in mid-June. It is always hard to assess how well the young get on as the adults usually take them across the seawall to the safety of the saltmarsh. Over 200 birds were recorded on the fresh marsh in July, many of them fledged youngsters, so it looks like they managed to survive.
Marsh harrier is also a species that started breeding in the early 1980's and again has increased at Titchwell in recent years mirroring the national population increase. This year we equalled the best ever breeding season with six nests fledging 16 young. Several of the youngsters are still present but many of them have already started the autumn migration to Africa.
Two male bitterns were recorded 'booming' for the second year running but unfortunatly we were unable to confirm the presence of any nests while bearded tit numbers remain stable with nine pairs located in the reedbed. Good views can be obtained from the Island Hide of family parties feeding along the reed edge.
A large slice of fortune led to the discovery of the first breeding record of common sandpiper for the reserve. While carrying out some management work on the fresh marsh we flushed a adult with a very recently fledged youngster from a large area of dense vegetation. This represented only the 8th breeding record for Norfolk and the first since 1980. Also recorded breeding for the first time this year was a pair of red crested pochards that raised five young.
Other breeding highlights included a pair of tawny owls using a nestbox near the Fen Hide, six territorial male Cettis warblers around the reedbed and recently a young water rail has been seen feeding along the edge of the fresh marsh.
All in all it has been a great year and hopefully there will be further good news to report next year.
Well last week got a bit interesting, too interesting for my liking! As you may already know the work we are undertaking at Titchwell can only take place outside the highly sensitive bird breeding and overwintering periods. This gives us exactly 12 weeks from the start of August to the end of October to get this years work programme completed. Up until last week things were going very well and we were even a bit ahead of schedule, mainly due to the good weather we have had. Then we hit a snag, quite a big one actually. As we are working with clay won on site (i.e. rubbish clay!) we need to use a type of material called a geogrid to help bind the new Parrinder Wall together. When the supplier was first contacted they promised it would take 7 days from when the order was placed to delivery on site. So our contractor phoned last week to place the order only to discover that a big order had come in from China after the typhoon and we couldn't have any for 5 weeks!!! Arrggg! This means losing 4 of our 12 weeks working window. So our engineers and contractors ran around in circles for three days trying to find suppliers of an equivalent geogrid. On the third day we thought we had might have found one, only to get a call from the original supplier to say we could have the original geogrid on time after all! Deep breaths all round and we are now back on schedule. Could do without these little bits of excitement thank-you!
No we're not having a concert, but hopefully the birds will make a bit of a song about the work when it is finished. The Titchwell Marsh Coastal Change Project has been on the go for 32 days, and things are moving fast.
The latest monster machine on site is the piling rig. This is no ordinary rig, it is installing 'band drains'. Theses are like flat pack straws that will draw the water away from the wall as we begin to pile the clay on top of the foundations.
Usually as you place a bank of 'mud' on the ground the weight forces water up from underneath and usually this would undermine the bank. The band drains we are installing will draw this water up into the carr stone layer where it will soak away into the lagoons.
Despite all the high tech machinery there are still some basic tools on the job. Note the garden shears in the guys hand as he cuts the textile band drain. The blue spots on the ground mark the location of the drains.
The machine drives a metal post about 10m into the ground and then pulls out the post leaving the band drain in place. In the next five days this machine will install approximately 3000 drains.
This means we can construct the wall in three months and more importantly means we can build the new Parrinder hide next November. Without the band drains we may have had to wait longer before we built the new hide on the bank. So it really is 'band aid'