This weekend sees over 600 volunteers walking over 2000 km of the British coastline to count bird corpses. Not the most attractive job you may think but as well as providing valuable data for monitoring oil pollution and other unusual causes for death amongst seabirds, it's also a great chance to get some fresh air. I walked the section from Brancaster Golf Club to Thornham point, which includes the beach at Titchwell, a distance of 4 km. The good news is that I didn't see one bird corpse. This is quite unusual and might be partially due to the northly winds blowing sand over recently beached birds. I did find a few other interesting things including a half eaten harbour porpoise, lots of different sorts of shells and a new species for me at Titchwell...a pipefish.
I think this one is a snake pipefish. They are common in rock pools and are often seen offshore up on the surface where sea birds catch them for food. Some species, particularly Auks and Terns, have resorted to trying to feed snake pipefish to their chicks as a substitute for their more normal diet of Sand-eels, which are in serious decline due to over-fishing and climate change. The chicks find these hard to swallow, they are less nutritious, and the parents spend much longer away from the nest leaving chicks vulnerable to predation and attack from neighbouring nests.
When you visit Titchwell why not spend a little more time looking for signs of sea life on the beach you never know whet you might find.
Yes, it's another first for Titchwell !!.......................this time in the shape of giraffa camelopardalis !!!!
Unmistakable in winter 'plumage' and 'flying' with neck outstretched, a 5 foot high juvenile filled with Helium has just been seen drifting west across the beach fifty feet in the air!!!!!!! Obviously way off course it may be be picked up further west as it migrates along the coast. When we first heard the report we thought it was just a load of 'hot air' but several visitors came back to the centre 'and stuck their necks out' and described the leopard like spots to perfection. Goodness only knows what the observers thought they first saw the giraffe, hundreds of metres away to the east. The balloon was last seen over Holme-next-the sea! What are your most unusual or amusing Titchwell sightings?
Our bitterns are currently very active and can be seen regularly flying over the reedbed and occasionally they have been showing very well from the Fen Hide. Two of our visitors were very lucky last weekend as they were able to watch the bittern below feeding in the open for 45 minutes!
These cracking images were taken by Tom Hedge last weekend.
We always know when Spring is on its way as we have time (just) to get some birding done after work.
Over the last week, the reserve has started to wake up.The first snowdrops around the picnic area were out in flower last weekend, yesterday morning I heard my first singing blackbird of the year and today I caught the first moth of the year in our trap - a pale brindled beauty if you are interested know. This is not the first activity of the year though. With the longer days the tits have been busy singing and a pair of blue tits are already holding territory around a nestbox outside the office window
Out on the reserve there are also 'Spring signs'. The small avocet flock has started to increase with 9 present yesterday and the redshank are starting to get noisy and chase each other around the saltmarsh. Pintail numbers have been fluctuating over the last few weeks and this may be a sign that they are starting to head towards the breeding grounds and are using the reserve as a safe roost and feeding site.
The most exciting increase in activity has come from the bittern (s). If you want to add bittern to your Titchwell list, now is the time to visit. In the last few days there have been lots of sightings of birds in flight over the reedbed. Although we don't know what they are doing, it is probably bird (s) moving between feeding sites. Best places to watch are the Fen Hide and West Bank path overlooking the reedbed. The marsh harriers are also starting to become territorial and I am pleased to tell you that the 'resident female' aka Ginger and returned for at least her 8th breeding season. Watch this space for more news throughout the year.
Make the most of the settled weather this weekend and visit the reserve for some (very) early Spring birdwatching.
Was out early this morning to check on the tides. The wind forecasts were variable depending who you asked so I thought I'd better check it out. It is always a bit nerve racking this time of year when northerly winds are forecast with a high spring tide. When the coastal project is finished it should mean I get a few more good nights sleep during the winter.
What has all this got to do with rail crossings?
Well it was bitterly cold and apart from a mistle thrush and the usual waterfowl, it was a quiet morning. Walking back along the path I found some reedmace heads on the path that had been chewed by something. The fact that it wasthe head and the seeds and they were at least 4 metres from where the plants were growing suggested it wasn't a bird.
Perhaps it was a chinese water deer?
Walking a bit further I came to the rail crossing. It wasn't obvious. There were no flashing lights or barriers, I hadn't even stopped, but the rail just shot across the path in front of me. It musthave been as surprised as I was because it seemed to speed up as it crossed the pathdesperate to make the cover of the vegetation on the far side of the path.
The first part of west bank path is bordered by shallow ditches on both sides and these arewell worth checking out for wildlife. This morning I had two moorhen, one water rail, song thrushand preening greenfinch.
Who knows if your lucky you may encouter your own rail crossing.