Here is the latest update from Ray Kimber on his quest to see 800 species on the reserve in the twelve months starting 1st August 2010.
‘When I started Ray's Rambles at the end of last July, it soon became obvious that I wasn't as clever as I thought I was. I was O.K. on birds, butterflies, dragonflies, mammals and wild flowers however there were huge gaps in my knowledge of other wildlife that I knew would test me!
I have put in about 20 hours a week volunteering on the reserve since then by taking a few of the guided walks, hide-helping, monitoring the twite flock for colour rings and doing this project, all very enjoyable in different ways.
This morning showed me how easy it is to overlook something big. I was helping some visiting birdwatchers see the short-eared owl flying over some gorse bushes at the back of Thornham Marsh when I suddenly thought 'Gorse isn't on my list!' If I don't notice a whole row of six foot tall yellow bushes, I have presumably missed a few smaller things as well! Let me know if there is anything missing off my list!
I mentioned in my last update that I had been doing some research into things I have seen but could not identify. The research has helped me add carder bee, a lichen (Evernia prunastri) and American piddock to the list. It made me realise there are dozens of species I have yet to record which should be here such as blackfly and greenfly. Even more reasons to look forward to the spring.
A walk along the tide-line can be a real revelation. So, I joined the feeding sanderlings and turnstones on a foray for new species. Amongst the shells and seaweeds I found a dead flounder and unusually for our normally pristine beach some litter in the shape of one large orange, a pair of incontinence pants and a very soggy £5 note! I have had various suggestions as to what I should do with these items - and the answer is no!
Originally, it was suggested that I should try to see 700 wildlife species by the end of July. I said this was too easy and the target should be 800. To reach this I have to see all the species I regularly come across, plus 120 that I have not personally recorded before - I am a very big idiot!
The last couple of weeks have been excellent, 17 new species have been added to my total. The most important of these is sharp rush; a rare species with spines that can give you quite a painful jab. This I have experienced many times during my golfing career at Brancaster, where the club now has the main colony fully protected.
The first snowdrops are flowering near the visitor centre so spring must be just around the corner; all I can say is 'roll on'
If you would like to see Ray's full list so far click on the link below.
For a life long birder like myself, to have a job working at what is probably the best bird reserve in the UK is simply a dream come true. I have many fond memories of working days spent on the reserve. Yes, there have been days when the birds have been the stars for example, spotting six cranes soaring over the fresh marsh or being present when a rare bird such as last spring's Iberian chiffchaff is found.
But, by no means are the best memories limited to the birdy ones! As the visitor officer, most of my job revolves around making sure visitors have the best possible time on the reserve be that on their first visit or their thousandth.
I remember one day last spring taking a mum and her two little girls on a guided walk. They were desperate to see muntjac deer, and I set out on the walk more in hope than expectation. As we crept around Meadow trail, a muntjac stood in the undergrowth just forty feet from us!
Whispering, in best David Attenborough fashion, I pointed the deer out to the girls. They were thrilled! The deer stood their transfixed, even allowing us eyepiece-filling views in the telescope. Suddenly, a movement underneath the deer caught our eyes – now we could see why the deer was not moving! She had two tiny fawns hiding in the undergrowth and they had just stood up! The look of absolute joy on the girls’ faces kept me going for months!
Another highlight for visitors last year was our Wings over Titchwell weekend in mid May. The idea was to show visitors the wide variety of birds we have at Titchwell at the peak of spring migration.
We had loads of staff and volunteers out on the reserve with scopes and binoculars showing people birds. The bitterns performed particularly well that day with many people having their first ever view.
We were all in touch with radios, sending the latest sightings back to the visitor centre where the growing bird list was on view for all to see. Visitors got more and more into the swing of things as the list steadily grew. Many changed their plans and spent two solid days on the reserve. In the end we saw 123 species over the weekend and everyone enjoyed themselves be they first timer or a more seasoned campaigner.
This year’s ‘Wings over Titchwell’ takes place on May 14 and 15. Put the date in your diaries! We will have even more staff and volunteers on the reserve to show you our birds. And just in case you’re wondering - we will of course be hoping to see 124 species this year!
If you haven't decided what to spend it on, why don't you come and see us in a couple of weeks.
Whether you are looking for a spare pair of binoculars for the car, to upgrade your current telescope or find out more about the art of digiscoping, we will have binocular experts from the RSPB and Viking Optical.
The event will be making the most of the fantastic views from the new Parinder Hide and if you are lucky, there may be something rare to look at through your new optics!!
Since the start of the New Year, we have seen a dramatic increase in ‘diving’ ducks, especially pochard, and it could be down to several factors.
In general, diving ducks are very scarce at Titchwell due to the lack of deep water but since late-December we have been experimenting with the levels in the fresh marsh and seeing how deep we can get them if needed. These deeper levels have made the reserve more suitable for both tufted ducks and pochard.The other possibility is that the pochard have been escaping hard winter weather in Eastern Europe. Large numbers of pochard winter in the UK with the Ouse Washes being one of the key sites. Our birds could have just arrived from the continent or be on their return journey already.
Whatever the reasons, we have been recording record numbers of pochard recently. In the last few weeks we have seen figures change on a daily basis. 72, 76, 80, 81 and then 82 last weekend. While Ray was on-site today hide helping, he reported a large number of diving ducks on the fresh marsh. A few minutes later, the reserve record has been smashed with 93 pochard present along with 26 tufted ducks.
After the last couple of weeks extreme high water levels we have opened the sluice in the fresh marsh letting water out onto the salt marsh. Unfortunately due to the high spring tides the levels are not dropping as quickly as we would like but already there is a little more of the islands showing. This coupled with the positively milder weather of late has meant more birds returning to the reserve.
This morning the fresh marsh held an impressive display of waterfowl including a wader roost of over a thousand birds including: 573 lapwing; 49 ruff; 20 dunlin; 460 golden plover and 3 avocet.
An impressive and reserve record breaking 82 pochard were also present on the fresh marsh but the female scaup which had been around for the most of the week seems to have moved on.
Other birds elsewhere on the reserve included: Northern harrier; 3 water pipit; 50+ twite; water rail; 2 barn owl and 14 snow bunting.