Most of the email that we get are not always to most interesting or exciting but one in my Inbox today was bit different. It was from one of our regular volunteers and contained a series of cracking photos from the Christmas period.The most interesting of them was of a little owl in the carpark. Not the rarest of birds you could dream of but for Titchwell it is a mega! The normal view of a little owl from Titchwell has been a dark shape sat in a tree by the road to Choseley drying barns nearly a mile from the reserve – not exactly the best views!
On Christmas Eve, Andy decided to check the carpark to see if there were any waxwings to photograph but bumped into this beauty. This is the first record for the reserve since 1995 when one was seen in an arable field near the carpark.
Just as rare has been a mobile and elusive hooded crow. The bird has been in the area for a few weeks now but is very hard to catch up with. It was seen feeding on the beach with 20 carrion crows and seems to have arrived following this increase in numbers. Hooded crows replace the familiar carrion the further north you travel and is the ‘normal’ crow on the Continent.
Other interesting records over the festive period have included 50 barnacle geese south over the reserve on the 20th, 19 pale-bellied geese, bean goose on Boxing Day, a confiding female red-breasted merganser on the tidal pool, 9 shorelarks on the beach and 30 show buntings at Thornham Point yesterday morning
Way back in April I was asked to design a new pin badge to celebrate the Titchwell Marsh Coastal Change project. The project, which will be completed next year will save the reserve's freshwater habitats from the effects of Coastal erosion.
The most important freshwater habitat to be saved is the freshwater reed bed, so it seemed obvious that the badge should include imagery of the reed bed. Easy so far!
Next we needed a bird to include on the badge. Bearded tit, marsh harrier and bittern were all candidates and eventually we settled on bittern in its 'sky-pointing' pose.
Several sketches and emails later we had a design for the badge which we felt happy with and yesterday the finshed badges arrived.
All the proceeds from the badge go direct to the Coastal Project and we ask £2 (or more if you feel able!) for each badge.
The badges are exclusive to Titchwell so next time you are at the reserve, pick up your badge!
Alternatively if you would like us to post you a badge please ring the visitor centre on 01485 210779.
Despite the season, the animal in the picture is not Dasher, Dancer, or Rudolph but a Chinese water deer which has taken up residence on the salt marsh west of the main footpath.
Chinese water deer have expanded their range recently in Norfolk and are reasonbly straightforward to identify if seen well. The black nose against a white muzzle, stripeless forehead and the white furry tufts in the lining of the ears are good distinguishing points from their near cousins Muntjac deer.
We also have muntjac on the reserve and in hard weather they can be seen from our office window taking seed off the bird table!
The reserve is certainly held in the grip of winter at the moment, with all three marshes being frozen solid, though thankfully we have only had a little snow. All the birds are suffering .....the amount of seed our birds are getting through at our feeding sations is truly amazing! Remember to keep your feeders topped up and when ever possible don't forget a supply of nice clean water.
Water rail, accompanied by common snipe have been easy to see today in the ditches by the feeders at the back of the visitor centre. Out on the reserve water pipits continue to frequent the brackish marsh along with getting on for a hundred skylark.
Birds of prey are well represented with marsh and northern harrier, peregrine, merlin, kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard all being seen in recent days.
We managed to get all the last few cleaning jobs done in the Parrinder Hide this afternoon and were able to get the security fencing down to allow a few people into the hides before dusk. THE VIEWS ARE AMAZING!!!
Helped by an amazing winter light, there was a large gull roost including at least one adult Meditteranean gull amongst several hundred black-headed and common gulls. Being able to view the roosting birds from several angles and heights made the search for oddities much easier. You now get a clear view over the reedbed and we were able to count a minimum of 6 marsh harriers coming into roost. Earlier in the afternoon, the first few people into the hide were treated to amazing close views of the Northern harrier perched in one of the bushes on the brackish marsh after chasing a group of 15 grey partridge - unfortunatly none of the people had a camera to hand!!
The family group of whooper swans are still present feeding in the field just to the west of the access road and 18 pale-bellied brent geese have been feeding with the brent flock on the grazing marsh.
On Saturday 18 September the new Parrinder hides will open and we can't wait to show you what we have done with the place.
The new hides have been a long time coming and I don't mind admitting I've had a few sleepless nights. It has taken a few years and a lot of work from a considerable number of people to get this project completed. It was also complicated by the fact that the hides have had to be built within the new sea defences being constructed as part of the Coastal Change Project.
The new hides not only look good but they should also work well thanks to the input of our visitors and volunteers, many of whom have commented on design features such as the new windows. The appearance will change over the coming 12-18 months as the larch exterior and zinc guttering gradually weathers to a cool grey. The sea walls either side are going to change as they become more vegetated and there is still some work to be completed on the seawall to the east of the hide which will mean the hide will appear to sink into the sea wall.
Some temporary interpretation will be going up in the hides soon but some more detailed interpretation will be completed and installed by October 2011 for the end of the Coastal Change Project.
In the meantime hope you enjoy the new hides (yes didn't I say there are two, one looking north and one looking south) and please tell us what you think.