This morning I just didn’t know what to expect. My first job was to open a sluice and let a little flush of water into the fresh marsh. The wind was pushing what little water there was up to the eastern end of the lagoon, concentrating birds at the furthest point from viewing. The little ‘flush’ worked and later in the afternoon new birds were arriving and coming closer to the path and hides making use of the re-wetted mud.
Whilst out and about, the first highlight of the day appeared distantly over the new seawall. It had a peculiar yet familiar undulating flight pattern of flap, flap, flap, dip. As it came closer the familiar call of great spotted woodpecker could be heard and it obligingly flew over my head. Woodpeckers are notoriously sedentary and I was surprised to hear of another bird seen in similar circumstances at Burnham Overy at about the same time. Where had these birds come from? Were they migrants from the near continent? What next? And we haven’t even got to the eruption, unicorn or Siberian arrival.
The eruption was first with large numbers of bearded tits flocking together in the reedbed. At one point I had two separate groups of about 80 birds in total and the ‘pinging’ calls were a pizzicato of sound as they buzzed from pool to pool. No one knows exactly why these post breeding flocks behave in this way but it’s great to watch and reassuring to see good numbers after a poor start to the breeding season, following the harsh winter.
Next came the Siberian arrivals as the first brent geese of the year made landfall at Titchwell. These birds are the dark bellied race which spend their summers on the Siberian tundra. As numbers build we will count the flocks to access the family group sizes and breeding success. If it’s been a good year for lemmings then the arctic foxes will have left the geese alone but if small mammals have been hard to come by...young geese become a favoured food.
Finally the unicorn or to be more precise convolvulus hawk moth. This species used to be called unicorn moth due to its caterpillar having a single projection at the head end. Now it is called convolvulus due to its food plant of members of the convolvulaceae or bindweed family. This species is an immigrant and the grandparents of this individual were probably residents of Africa.
So, I turn up for work on a normal Sunday in September and what can I expect? The unexpected, I love my job!
Our reserve has come up with another 13 species to raise my list total to 899. Four new moths - cream wave, white-line dart, square-spot rustic and frosted orange - came via the moth trap.
I have always maintained that not enough attention is paid to the wildlife in the car park, and the last few days have supported my views. I found a very colourful knot-grass caterpillar next to a spiky pea gall in the coach park. Nearby was an unexpected potato plant and, growing typically on an elder, several jelly-ear fungi. Some face flies and a hoverfly (xanthogramma pedisequum), were sunning themselves on some railings, and on the night of the staff hog roast there was a pipistrelle bat hawking over the staff car park.
It has been a couple of weeks of brilliant birds! We've had spoonbills, our second buff-breasted sandpiper, red kite and hundreds of waders and exotic escapes in the form of black swan and greater flamingo, but none of these were new additions to my list, and certainly didn't equal the reserves first genuine cattle egret or the extremely smart juvenile little bittern which soon followed it.
The newly flooded Volunteer Marsh (previously called the brackish marsh) is a great success and was probably what attracted the cattle egret. I look forward to seeing many more stunning birds there in the future.
No, I don't mean Sir Trevor McDonald. Nor Matt Baker off The One Show. I am, of course, referring to Chris Packham!The BBC Springwatch/Autumnwatch presenter also happens to be the RSPB's Vice-President, and will be paying Titchwell Marsh a visit on Sunday 16th October. Don't get too excited, there won't be any filming going on, but there will be the chance to join Chris on a guided walk around the reserve where you will be able to learn from his expertise whilst simultaneously enjoying the amazing wildlife Titchwell has during the Autumn. My female friend has already insisted she visit that weekend. To see me, not Chris Packham, obviously...
Mr Packham is coming to Titchwell to thank funders of the newly completed Coastal Change Project, which has finally reached its end after three years of working to protect the reserve from coastal erosion.
He will be leading two guided walks for the public during the afternoon, starting at 2:15pm and 3:15pm. The walks will cost £15 per person and places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. If you would like to book a place, please call 01485 210779, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask in the Visitor Centre.