I've had another really good fortnight with the list climbing to 886. All of the new species, except one, could be described as creepy-crawlies! They included a twin-lobed horsefly (chrysops relictus) which, with it's dark-banded wings and vivid green eyes, didn't look like your normal horsefly at all, but certainly acted like one!
Thanks to a young lad on one of my guided walks I was able to identify a lesser marsh grasshopper, partly by the white stripe on it's wing. The boy's mother then found me some sea slaters on the beach ruin. These are close relatives of woodlice, usually a dull sandy brown, but these were a mottled brown and grey - evidently they can change colour to suit their surroundings. They also act as nature's own bech cleaners, helping to keep things tidy by eating things washed up on the tide-line.
Most disgusting of the findings were the dozens of poecilochirus mites found on a couple of sexton beetles. I thought they were parasitic but it seems that they are only hitching a lift from one dead body to the next!
My real star was, of course, the buff-breasted sandpiper that paraded in front of the Parrinder Hide with dunlin and curlew sandpiper. It looked a bit like a very small, yellow-legged version of the juvenile ruff that was feeding nearby. When the sandpiper raised it's wings you could clearly see the diagnostic black marks towards the leading edge of the underwing.
The new species are all marked with # at the end of the list. Let's hope the autumn migration brings in a few more star birds!
The autumn wader migration is now in full swing and the fresh marsh has been ‘hooching’ with birds this week. Numbers have been building steadily but yesterday afternoon our regular reserve count produced fantastic numbers. With good viewing conditions and light winds the fresh marsh was looking the best it has for years. 300+ dunlin, 9 curlew sandpipers, 5 little stints, 50 ruff, 5 common sandpipers, 3 green sandpipers, wood sandpiper shows how great the reserve is at this time of year. Add to the list the (escaped) greater flamingo, whinchat and wheatear at Thornham Point, pied flycatcher and female redstart in the Island Hide bushes there was plenty to keep everyone interested.
After a day in the office it reminded us all how lucky we are working at such a fantastic reserve and it is only a matter of time before the ‘big one’ arrives.
Common sandpiper by Andy Thompson
When I pulled into the carpark this morning I was met with a pair of swans wandering about. Thankfully help was at hand as the volunteers had just arrived. Helped by David and Nicola (Swann), we managed to walk the two birds through the carpark, down the tank range and into the reedbed.
After reaching 800 species Ray aims higher, with a new challenge to complete...
Well folks, I have a new target of 1000 species to be seen before the end of the year. The 850 already noted have been put in alphabetical order and the 24 latest additions will be added in a new section.
Two birds had been left out by accident, mistle thrush and little ringed plover, not good! A white trailing lobelia was found growing outside the visitor centre, obviously an escape from a hanging basket, but the dozens of pink water speedwell on the freshmarsh were natural invaders. There have been hundreds of fairy inkcap fungi on various tree stumps, at least 5 small red-eyed damselflies on the dragonfly pool and an oak bush cricket on the Feeding Station wall; but almost certainly the best species was the dune tiger beetle I photographed 200 yards west of the beach platform.
My total now stands at 874 and I'm really hoping that I'll find a few good birds during the autumn migration.
We are trying something new. Shingle has been placed on one of the islands on the fresh marsh hoping to encourage ground nesting birds. This in itself is not a new idea but in addition we have put some shingle in an usual location - on top of our new sea defence.
Little terns used to nest regularly at Titchwell Marsh. The colony of up to 70 nests was on a small shingle spit on the beach, to the east of the lagoons. Unfortunately due to the coastal erosion and changing habitat this has been lost and the little terns have suffered. In fact although we still see birds around during the start of the breeding season we have not had any successful nesting for the last few years and before that we were down to one or two pairs a year.
To try and encourage these and other ground nesting species such as ringed plover we have created three areas of shingle. A 20m x 10m section on one of the new fresh marsh islands will undoubtedly prove attractive to birds, with its close proximity to the marsh and water. But what species will it attract? Will we see little tern breeding on the reserve again in 2012? Will we get ringed plovers using this area? We will have to wait and see.
The other two areas are on the crest on the new sea defence. These are a little more risky and success is less predictable but we are so concerned about little terns and ringed plovers that we thought it would be worth trialling. If the target species do use these areas then it could have significant impacts as it would be quite easy to put shingle on the crests of other suitable sea defences to help these birds find new breeding areas. As with all trials we will be monitoring it’s success (or failure) closely and will bring you and update next summer.