Here's the latest from Ray:
The last couple of weeks have been really interesting largely due to the keen eyes of various members of staff, although I did find five new species for myself. My contributions were two micro moths, Agapeta hamana and Chrysoteuchia culmella, a green woodpecker, corn marigold which was a totally new flower for me at Titchwell, and bracken which was a remnant from when the area east of fen hide was a heathy field some forty years ago.
Four different people added one flower each to my total. Prickly lettuce was located on the west bank, red bartsia was found near the gate leading onto our new walk, square-stemmed willowherb was along the fen hide trail growing with hoary and greater willowherb, and a large colony of bog pimpernel was found in the orchid area along the meadow trail. It was thought that the bog pimpernel had disappeared from Titchwell, I have not seen it here for ten years or so.
Dwarf cream wave, shaded broad-bar and a lovely swallow-tailed moth came from last Wednesday's moth trap. The latter would have been my favourite of the new finds, but it could not compare to the really elegant roseate tern that was resting with common, arctic, sandwich and little terns on the freshmarsh yesterday morning. I have seen a few roseates here before but they have all been in flight, so being able to have a good look at one on the ground was a treat and an excellent way to bring my Rambles total up to 1050.
Now that summer seems to have arrived I'm hoping for another surge of sightings - with, of course, a little more help from my friends!
At Titchwell marsh we run hundreds of fantastic guided walks every year looking at the fabulous wildlife and the history of the reserve. What we don’t normally run are guided walks aimed solely at wildflowers so we were really keen to gage the reaction to our wildflower walk last Tuesday.
On the day we were treated to bright sunshine and thankfully no rain (hides are no good on wildflower walks). We identified over 80 plants looking at how you identify them, how you tell them apart from similar species and their cultural history.
During the walk we came across four members of the umbellifer family, Alexanders, hemlock, upright hedge parsley, and hogweed are all relatives of cow parsley that line our roads during early summer. Alexanders were planted by the Romans at the nearby fort in Brancaster as a spring vegetable and have spread around the Norfolk coast. Hemlock is a very poisonous plant that can be identified by the red blotches running down its stem. The plant was used to poison the philosopher Socrates in ancient Greece.
Two common plants that we came across with interesting histories were hedge woundwort and feverfew, as the names suggest they were very important as herbal medicines in former times. The antiseptic qualities of hedge woundwort saw it used for healing wounds whilst feverfew has been used for centuries as a remedy for headaches and fevers.
On the fen meadow the star of the show southern marsh orchids had finished flowering but the spikes were still visible producing seed for next year’s growth. Other plants include marsh pennywort that carpets the area, fen bedstraw a scrambling plant with small white flowers, and the fragrant water mint.
Guided walk attendees were treated to a sneak preview of the new reedbed area where reserve staff and volunteers are busy constructing viewing screens ready for the opening of the new trails in September 2012. These will provide fantastic views of marsh harriers and hopefully the odd Bittern for the keen eyed. Whilst in this area we came across flixweed a member of the crucifer family that occurs sporadically in Norfolk and is a new species for reserve.
If you are interested in attending future wildflower walks please get in touch.
Since the confirmation of an active bittern nest over the Jubilee Weekend we have been fortunate to have the female feeding in the borrow pits by the main path. Attracted by the large amount of rudd that are present in the pools, she has been showing well at times. This photo, taken recently from the Fen Hide by one of our visitors Danny Gibson, shows how well adapted the bittern is to life in the reedbed.
The fantastic cryptic plumage enables the bird to blend into its surroundings and if disturbed, the bird will ‘sky-point’, standing bolt upright with the bill straight up, the stripes on the neck looking like reed stems. Bitterns have large feet which they use to clamber around in the reeds and the large eyes are perfect for spotting fish, frogs and small mammals around the edges of the pools. In flight, their broad, rounded wings, hunched neck, trailing legs and slow flight make them easy to identify, you just need to be lucky.....
I have had great fun out of the office this morning getting wet and muddy opening up some areas of reed near the Island Hide. The plan is that water rails, young bearded tits or even a rare spotted crake may use this sheltered area to feed in this autumn. The area has been cut so that is can be viewed from both the West Bank path and the Island Hide.
Spotted crake (http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/s/spottedcrake/index.aspx) used to be a regular autumn sighting at Titchwell but there haven’t been any records now for over 10 years and I am yet to add it to my Titchwell bird list.
The first person to provide me with some evidence of a sighting (preferably a photo) wins a bacon roll from our servery....hopefully that will be the incentive for you all to get looking?
I feel really sorry for all the folk I've heard recently saying "Not much about, is there?" So there are no rarities at the moment but I've had great fun watching the thousands of 'common' birds we have here. Always worth watching are the knots wheeling over the fresh marsh each time they get disturbed from their roost, the little gulls daintily dipping down to pick small food items from the water's surface, little terns diving on the new Volunteer Marsh, the bittern taking feeding flights over the reedbeds, and this year's marsh harrier fledglings making their first tentative flights.
I've also had a great couple of weeks on my Rambles list by adding 20 new species, so that the total is now 1037, 682 have been noted this year alone. The new additions are 6 plants and 14 insects. The flora consists of thyme-leaved sandwort and lady's bedstraw, both found at Thornham Point, lesser water parsnip close to the fen hide and flixweed, bur chervil and several 'red' opium poppies all by the new walk in Patsy's Reedbed. (due to be open fully on September 1st.)
The 9 new moths have either come from the 9.00 a.m. Wednesday moth mornings or been found on the walls. Smallest of them, but with the longest antennae, was the micro Adela croesella, while another micro, the bee moth is interesting by the fact that it's larvae live in bumble bee and wasp nests, feeding on dead cells and the host's brood. Clouded silver, middle-barred minor, spectacle, small fanfoot, and engrailled were also noted, but to my eyes the green silver-lines and female ghost moth were easily the best to look at. The remaining insects were two soldier beetles, (Rhagonycha fulva and Cantharis livida), mint leaf beetle, an ichneumon fly (Amblyteles sp) and a large evil-looking brown horse-fly, Tebanus bovinus.
So, never mind the weather, come on everybody - get out and enjoy!