Four common cranes flew west over the reserve at lunchtime but the big news is of a treecreeper seen from the office window. This is quite a rare bird at Titchwell.....how typical I had to attend a meeting and so missed the bird! Treecreepers, along with another Titchwell rarity the nuthatch are famous for their agility running up, down and along tree trunks but as this image shows it's not only treecreepers that can do the acrobatics.
The sun continues to shine ....personally I am looking forward to a good storm! Even on the sunniest days, there are more subtle signs of autumn ocurrring daily.
The first lesser whitethroat for a while was in the picnic area today along with the now long staying Camberwell beauty and young blackcaps seem to be everywhere!
On the fresh marsh ruff and spotted redshank numbers continue on a slow build with eleven and seven respectively present. The large flock of knot seem to have diminished slightly in the last few days and bar tailed godwit numbers are also on the way down.
The large number of waders using the reserve in the last few weeks have mostly been immature adults which have not attempted to make the long journey north to the breeding grounds. Others such as the cracking adult male ruff present for the last week, have already 'done the business' on the mating grounds leaving the females to get on with rearing the young of the year.
As June turns into July, the southward passage of waders will turn from a trickle into a flood with the first returning juvenile waders not that many weeks away now.
7am, midsummer, bright sunshine, long waders.... Yes, we're surveying the salt marsh passerines again. Emma, almost overcome with hay fever, intrepidly leads the way onto the marsh. I follow, bleary eyed and regretting my decision to skip coffee this morning. Between us, we are hardly capable of speech, never mind the agility required to remain upright while crossing the creeks and mudflats of the lonely, atmospheric salt marsh. We get to the first creek and I fall, literally, at the first hurdle. A graceful but unintentional slide down the muddy bank, a lumbering leap across the water, sinking immediately up to my calves, and overbalancing to leave starry handprints in the smelly black mud.... Emma laughs and sneezes from the bank.
After a few wheel spins on the bank, I extricate myself and we continue. I have dozens more such crossings to look forward to! We have to walk a serpentine transect that aims to cover most of the salt marsh between the west bank and Thornham Point, keeping a sharp eye out for skylarks, linnets, meadow pipit and reed bunting. Unfortunately, this means that we are not looking where we are placing our feet, so our progress tends to be a series of lurches and stumbles punctuated with exclamations of surprise as we step into narrow, deep creeks which are completely hidden by the thick grasses of the salt marsh. It gets hotter and hotter, and the sleepy humidity of the salt marsh is not helping with me to wake up at all. "Bird," I state, rather obviously, pointing. A family of 5 linnets flits past, the male vividly coloured in the morning sun. Linnets remain in the UK year-round, and are seldom seen singly, preferring to keep together in their pairs or family units. The reed bunting are showing as well, although looking rather scruffy now, probably run off their feet looking after young. The ever-present skylarks describe slow, deliberate circles in the sky, their delirious song drifting back down to us below. Occasionally a meadow pipit will shoot upwards and then parachute back down on flexed wings, singing sweetly.
As always, the communities of wildflowers on the salt marsh charm me - the carpets of sea thrift that greeted me last time have more or less finished flowering, but the common sea lavender is budding now, and in one or two places the first delicate tracery of stems hold aloft their fresh mauve sprays. Over towards Thornham Point we find the less common matted sea lavender, a diminutive plant with tough zig-zag stems and tiny, perfect pale lilac flowers. The marsh samphire is growing too, and I sample some, having heard of its culinary worth. Nice flavour, but not advisable when you're gasping for a drink a couple of kilometres out on the blazing salt marsh - too salty! At last the transect is complete and we stumble off the salt marsh, sweltering and thirsty. Emma is exhausted from her ordeal with the pollen, and my hands (and hence binoculars) are encrusted with dry mud. A rather comical picture as we drag ourselves up the west bank path!
Please note that the salt marsh can be a dangerous place for the unwary - don't try this at home!
Shirely Boyle Volunteer warden
Usually I post at the end of the day but can't wait until then as we had a very interesting migrant turn up this morning. The species in question has flown over the North Sea from Scandinavia. There have only been about 2,000 sightings since the first records in 1748. Despite the fact that they tend to migrate in flocks it is not a bird...it is a butterfly, a Camberwell Beauty!
The only other confirmed record for Titchwell Marsh was in 2001 but there tend to be years of 'invasion' where conditions on the continent and over the North Sea are just perfect for the 'flap-flap-glide' flight of these large butterflies.
So why call it the Camberwell Beauty, well that is where the first recorded sightings were. Obviously at the time (1748) Camberwell was still a nice little rural spot rather than an inner London suburb. I must admit I prefer the old name of Grand Surprize (1766) which seemed very appropriate when I was confronted with it in the carpark this morning.
With the weather set to continue like this for the next few days why not get out and find your own interesting insects.
We are undergoing some major structural changes this summer as part of the Titchwell Coastal Change Project. The work taking place on the reserve will protect it from the effects of coastal changes, the impact of sea level rise and increasing storm events. This is essential to make sure that our freshwater habitats are protected for future generations.
Our much-used west-bank path to the beach will be temporarily closed from approximately 25th July while engineering work goes is carried out. The path should re-open completely from around mid September, with access to Island hide available from early September. Even though the beach path is closed, there is certainly no shortage of things to see and do on the rest of the reserve.
Throughout the beach path closure, the rest of the facilities on the reserve will be open as usual. The visitor centre, information desk and servery will still be open to offer you a cup of tea or a spot of lunch. It’s business as usual in the shop with some fantastic offers on binoculars and telescopes as well as a great selection of books and gifts. Entry to the reserve will be totally free.
From 19 July, every weekday in the school holidays, we have a free family activity area with lots of different activities going, including hands on owl pelleting, badge making or investigating what our creepy crawly friends are up to down bug alley! On Tuesdays and Thursdays, families can try a spot of pond dipping, or on Mondays and Wednesdays identifying some of the marvellous moths on the reserve. All the family events are free and with the exception of pond dipping booking is not necessary.
There will also be regular free nature walks around the fen and meadow trails to Fen hide, and there are landscape and wildlife photography workshops, dragonfly and other wildlife events. All the events and more information on the project is detailed elsewhere via the links on the Titchwell home page.
We will be posting more accurate dates for the path closure and its re-opening on this blog neare the time…..so keep checking! If you have a query about any aspect of the Titchwell Coastal Change Project the please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Well that is what one of the team said when this fella was found in the carpark this afternoon. This recently fledged juvenile tawny owl was sat in one the large sycamore trees minding it's own business having a snooze in the shade. That was until the local jay pair found it and started to give it grief and try drive it away. They were partially successful and the chick moved to a lower branch out of the way. One of the jays was even seen to pull off a leaf and throw it at the owl!!
Up until a couple of years ago were were always puzzled by the reports of juvenile tawny owls and couldn't work out where they were breeding - all the trees here are not big enough to have large enough holes in them. It wasn't until last year that we located an old owl box in these large trees.
Tawny owl chicks are well known for leaving the nest before they have fully fledged and 'bundles of fluff' can often be found close to the nest. Although it may be tempting to get a closer look, the adults will probably be close by and can be very aggressive when defending their young. In the past they have been known to attack people causing nasty injuries. Thankfully our bird was at a safe distance and was enjoyed by many of our visitors today as you can see below.
Things have started to pick up a bit on the bird front with this week's highlights being two fly-over Montagu's harriers. On Tuesday, a male flew NW over the reserve and headed out over the Wash and today, another male came in from the west and went inland towards Choseley. Two spoonbill dropped in yesterday afternoon and two juveniles flew east on Tuesday. A red kite and 4 Meditteranean gulls also flew west on Tuesday. Wader numbers are starting to increase with 6 spotted redshank, 3 ruff and a green sandpiper on the fresh marsh today. Six immature little gull are still present and the female bittern continues to show well.
The warm weather has seen an increase in butterfly numbers with both painted lady and red admiral seen.