Being the assistant to our long-standing and much esteemed warden a lot of his `nice little jobs` tend to come my way. This week it was “just go along to the fen meadow and count how many orchids there are”. Now you might think “well that’s not a bad job”. Have you seen how many there are!? There are 1000s and I am not exaggerating. The warden says it’s the best year he has ever seen since arriving in Norfolk, and that’s a long time!
Conservationists regularly conduct orchid counts by counting the number of spikes to get an exact figure. By doing this every year it allows them to see how different environmental conditions and management work is affecting them. At Titchwell we decided to estimate the number so that we did not damage the orchids and other wild flowers by walking across the site. The final estimate was a staggering 1500! All the orchids are Southern Marsh Orchids Dactylorhiza praetermissa that have stout hollow stems, unspotted leaves (ring spotted in a variation known as Leopard) and pale pink to rosy-purple flowers.
I must confess it’s not a bad job counting orchids. Some of the warden’s jobs are nice after all!
If you would like to learn more about the plants at Titchwell there is a wildflower walk on Wednesday 26th June 2013. Please book by calling our visitors centre 7 days a week on 01485 210779. Price is £6 for adults, £4 for children. £1 discount for RSPB members.
Neil Lincoln, Reserve Assistant
You will all be pleased to know that our very own Ray Kimber has been selected as a winner of a 2013 Norfolk Community Biodiversity Award in the individual category, the award is sponsored by the Norfolk Biodiversity Partnership!
He’s being given the award in recognition of his over 30 years of exemplary voluntary work to the RSPB and here at Titchwell Marsh. Throughout his many years of service, Ray has shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for nature with thousands of people, engaging them with the wonders of our beautiful reserve.
Ray will be presented with his award at a ceremony in Norwich on 23 July and staff and volunteers at Titchwell Marsh would like to congratulate Ray for such a great achievement!
Don’t worry, it is a positive post!!
One of the features of the East Coast in spring, is the annual passage of black terns and little gulls but this year, with all the poor weather, we thought it wouldn’t happen. Well I am glad to say it has and for the last week the fresh marsh has been graced by the presence of upto 3 summer plumage black terns and 11 immature little gulls.
Both species breed fairly widely throughout Eastern Europe and west into Scandinavia and pass through the North Sea on their spring migration. Arrivals of birds at Titchwell usually coincide with easterly winds that drift them onto our shores.
Unlike many of the tern species, the marsh terns (black, white-winged black and whiskered), feed on the insects low over the waters’ surface rather than plunge dive and have a flight action that looks like they are on a piece of elastic!
Black terns are unmistakable with their black heads and body with silvery grey wings and tail.
Most of the little gulls that are currently on site are 1st summer birds and can be identified by the bold black markings on their upperwings. This means that they were hatched in the summer of 2012 and will not attain their full breeding plumage until they are in their 3rd calendar year. Little gulls are a very rare breeder in the UK but they did attempt to breed in 2007, failing at the egg stage.
What a star ! All reserves should have a Mike Barratt, or better still two. Mike served in the army in north-east India from 1944 to1946 and then from 1947 to 1950 in Malaya. On returning home he was in electronics until eventually retiring to live in Thornham in 1985, just a couple of miles from the reserve. He started to volunteer here almost straight away and has been of major help to all of our site managers ever since. Mike is now in his 80's, but luckily no-one has told him, he wouldn't believe us if we did. At the moment we are in the middle of a pretty raw week in March, most of our visitors are complaining about the cold, the rain and the threat of more snow. So far this week I've seen Mike man the information desk, wield a pickaxe while repairing a path, stand in freezing cold water taking salinity readings and show a new volunteer round the reserve, not bad for a youngster, but I think he may be getting soft with that cushy indoor job! I first had contact with him while he was area co-ordinator for the British Trust for Ornithology, from that you can tell he also knows his birds, any member of his Mike's Mallards group will confirm this. If the RSPB were like the boy scouts Mike would have earned so many badges he would need two jackets to sew them on.
His talents include being our historian, for those of us who do guided walks the knowledge he has passed on to us about Titchwell's past has been invaluable. You have no idea how difficult it is doing a guided walk on one of those days when the weather has kept bird numbers down, our history and perhaps knowing a bit about plants often gets you out of jail. Other jobs he gets involved with are running the small mammal survey, reed cutting, reed and tree planting, tree lopping, path clearing, ditch digging, fence repairing, snow clearance, taking guided walks and fixing electrical problems. He also has a talent for quality controlling the feeding station's hot cross buns! It doesn't matter what he's doing he always shows great enthusiasm plus a good grasp of the job in hand. I'm sure he'll agree with me when I say that having so much contact with so many young staff members and volunteers has helped him stay on the ball. If you see Mike on the information desk go and have a chat with him I'm sure you'll find out something you didn't know about Titchwell.
Here at Titchwell we have been working with the Norfolk Bat Survey in a project which is keeping track of bat populations in Norfolk. This project coordinated by the Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service annually monitors 1km squares to improve understanding of species distribution and measure changes in numbers.
The monitoring is nice and easy, just what we like! Within the 1km square, we picked three spots where the recording equipment is placed over three nights. The equipment only starts recording when the bat calls start happening and they are recorded onto an SD card, which is sent off to the bat survey group when it gets full. We were then sent an e-mail with the species that were present and the number of bat passes, not the number of bats.
At Titchwell we have three 1km squares where we have placed the recording equipment. So far the results for one of the 1km square are in, and we found the results rather surprising!! See what you think for yourself.......
9thof May- detector placed by the visitor centre
2351 Common pipistrelle
301 Soprano pipistrelle
68 Nathusius’ pipistrelle
Brown long-eared bat
1 Myotis species (this is where the recording belongs to the Myotis family, which in Norfolk could be Natterer’s, Daubenton’s, Whiskered and Brandt’s.)
10th of May- detector placed in woods by farthest car park
702 Common pipistrelle
182 Soprano pipistrelle
1 Nathusius’ pipistrelle
1 Whiskered bat (suspected)
6 Myotis species
11th May- detector placed by the dead Elms near Patsy’s pool
10 Common pipistrelle
3 Soprano pipistrelle
We were very impressed with how many passes we had by the visitor centre. The Common pipistrelle and Soprano pipistrelle are two of the most common bat species found in the UK with the Soprano being found usually in wetland habitats feeding on the midges and mosquitoes abundant in these habitats, and the Common being found in a wide range of habitats. Both of these species roost in crevices round the outside of houses and buildings. We were very excited to see so many Nathusius’ pipistrelle as although it is widespread across the UK it is considered nationally rare; this is a migratory species which is similar in looks to the Common pipistrelle but slightly larger with longer fur. The Brown long eared bat is found throughout the UK; it uses its large ears to listen for prey sounds and roosts in small colonies in older buildings and trees.
If you are interested in volunteering to monitor in your area please visit www.batsurvey.org to see the 1km squares and dates recording equipment is available. You can also follow updates on the species of bats being found in Norfolk on Twitter and Facebook. An update on our next plot will be available soon!