Monday, 9 February 2015

Feb 9th RSPB Titchwell

It is a lovely day for a birding adventure at the popular RSPB reserve of Titchwell on the West Norfolk Coast. I am here with my mum to see what is about at this time of year. The best way to find out before heading out is to check today's sightings board. On today's 'menu', I looked excitedly as the names "Long-tailed Duck" and "Red-breasted Merganser" were written on it. I have not seen either before and both were seen on the sea (not surprising as they are both sea ducks). So, off to the beach we go!

"Lets not stop along the way" my mum tells me. Fat chance, as birds stop us every step of the way. This includes; marsh harrier, linnets, meadow pipit, golden plover, lapwings, teal, shoveler, tufted duck, hundreds of brent geese, black-tailed godwits, redshanks, wigeon, little grebes, little egrets and curlews.

Spotted Redshank
There were two special birds we found on our way to the beach. First was a spotted redshank. Looks like a normal redshank, but is spottier, is slightly bigger and has a slightly longer bill. This bird is still in it's winter plumage. In the summer it is black with white spots over it's body. If only they breed here. My second special bird caught us by surprise. I managed to spot it as it was flying over our heads. It was a female goosander. One was apparently seen by the new hides earlier this morning, but it seems it is time for it to go as it circled around us twice before heading out beyond the saltmarsh neighbouring the reserve. It looks like a duck with a brown punky head and a thin, straight bill. At least I didn't tread through mud to see this goosander, unlike the no-show male at Strumpshaw last week.

A battery of scopes lined up along the dunes as we reached the beach. All scanning the sea for ducks. No sign of the long-tailed duck, but there were red-breasted mergansers everywhere. I didn't bring my scope with me today, but a kind chap allowed me a peek at my first ever merganser. I was looking at a large group of males and females bobbing on the waves. They look similar to goosanders (they are related I suppose) with red thin bills and punkier crests. The males look more striking than females with a black-green head and a series of spots on his back. Goosanders and mergansers are saw-billed ducks, which means that their bills have 'teeth' that helps catch and hold onto slippery fishy prey.

Dunlin, Sanderling and Grey Plover
What was out at sea was good, but along the shoreline was where all the action really was at. Many birds were feasting on what the tide has brought in. Using an old ruin of a pillbox (I think) as a makeshift hide, we got great views of these birds. Sanderlings, dunlin, turnstones, redshanks, oystercatchers and grey plover pecked away at the razorshells and other things on the strandline. The gulls (mostly herring, lesser black-backed and black-headed) bullied everyone, chasing them until they gave up their food (just like pinching chips from humans). I watched another attempting to eat a starfish. It seemed like too much to swallow to me!

Gull eating a starfish
On our way back for lunch, a group of birders with scopes showed us two snipes and a water rail. After lunch, we visited a few hides and watched the brent geese and other waders and waterfowl we had already seen, while also finding an avocet. Another good day of birdwatching!
Black-headed Gull

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