Twite by Janne and Hanna Aalto
Over the last few weeks, the reserve has been the venue for an increasingly rare sight in Norfolk – a wintering flock of twite.
The twite is a small finch and can usually be found feeding in mixed flocks with linnets on the saltmarsh and along the tide line on the beach. Although similar to linnet, twite can be identified by their pale bills, buff/orangey wash to the face and upper breast, pinkish rump (base of the tail) and a buzzy call in flight.
The decline in numbers in Norfolk has been very dramatic. As recently as the mid-1970’s, a flock of 1000 birds were recorded at Titchwell with the last big flock noted in 1990 of 300. The reasons for these declines are not fully understood but has probably been influenced by the loss of breeding habitat in northern England. Studies on these breeding populations have been underway to the last few years and this is where we need YOUR help.
Up to 50 birds have been feeding on the brackish marsh recently and many of them are individually marked with coloured leg rings. This enables the researchers to track individual birds and monitor their breeding success and wintering grounds. Many of the birds are carrying pink rings which identifies that they have been ringed in the south-east Pennines.
How can you help – if you see any of the colour-ringed twite on your visit, can you have a close look at the ring combination and report it to a member of the Titchwell team. The image below shows several of the birds currently present on the reserve.
Twite by Dave Curtis
Well even if it doesn't happen, the recent cold snap has certainly made a difference to the birds. Over the last few days, with cold easterly winds and snow , there has been a significant increase in winter migrants. With food hard to come by, normally shy species are turning up in strange places.
Over the weekend there has been upto 20 common snipe feeding in the small ditch that runs alongside the main path near the visitor centre. Being the only unfrozen water they have been showing well crouching down to hide rather than flying off. The same ditch has also hosted a jack snipe, at least 4 water rails and 3 woodcocks. Many of these woodcock have probably moved in from Scandinavia but ringing recoveries show that some of our wintering birds come from as far as Russia!
Other highlights from recent days has been the large movement of thrushes, skylarks and lapwings all escaping the cold weather on the continent. On Sunday a single woodlark was seen flying west and a long-eared owl was found roosting in an ivy-covered tree near the visitor centre (no sign today).
If the weather stay cold you maybe lucky and get an avian Christmas present - a waxwing feeding in your garden. I am hoping Santa will bring me a Ross's gull on the fresh marsh!
Happy Christmas and New Year
Well it's still white and the wildlife is struggling on.
Titchwell is looking pretty spectacular at the moment so if you fancy working of those mince pies and brandys why not visit the reserve for some fresh air. The reserve is open everyday of the festive period with the Visitor Centre and servery only closed on Christmas day and boxing day (26th).
Although a lot of the duck have moved away due to the frozen water there is still lots to see. Woodcock and snipe generally become more obvious and there have been good numbers seen around the visitor centre area over the last few days.
It can also be a good time to see mammals as they become less timid as food becomes harder to find. It is also easier to see evidence of their presence from tracks in the snow.
What ever you decide to do over Christmas all of us at Titchwell hope you have a fantastic time and would like to thank you for your support this year.