Sunday, 10 April 2016

April 10th RSPB Titchwell

Spring is in the air, the migratory birds are starting to come back in force and there is nowhere better to witness this than along the north Norfolk coast. I have come to Titchwell with my parents not only for a walk, but to also see if anything has turned up. I took one look at today's sightings from the board and it was full of great migrant birds. There was one in particular that caught my eye and that was a male redstart. I have seen redstarts before, but never in Norfolk before. I was told to head to the Fen Hide, which was nearby, and to look for a crowd of people. So off we went.


We didn't go very far until I saw the crowd along part of a boardwalk that circles a pond surrounded with lots of trees. This one spot turned out to be a treasure trove with every tree full of migratory birds. I have never seen so many blackcaps in one place, most of which were males! There were also chiffchaffs, willow warblers, robins, Cetti's warblers and not to mention little grebes and a coot on the pond itself. Then, of course, there was the main attraction, the male redstart. He prefered to move around the trees on the opposite side of the pond and was always moving about in these few trees, hiding amongst the catkins. It was a challenge to locate him in my camera due to the vegetation, the bright light, the zooming distance and his active nature, but I think I managed to get a couple of ok shots in the end.



Male redstarts are beautiful looking birds. They have orange breasts, a red tail, grey back and black face with white forehead. Females are much duller grey-brown in colour with a buff underside and a rusty red tail. In Norfolk, redstarts are only seen here on migration, they don't breed here. Soon, this male will continue west or north to its breeding ground in a woodland somewhere in the UK, more than likely somewhere in Wales, Scotland or in the western or northern counties of England. For us Norfolk birdwatchers, now is a great time to see these little beauties while they stop over to rest and feed before concluding their journey from Africa.

After a short walk on the trail just beyond the Fen Hide (seeing marsh harriers, pochards, small tortoiseshell butterflies and hearing skylarks, bullfinches and a sedge warbler), we returned to the visitor centre for lunch. We sat at a picnic bench and had our lunch while watching the feeder station. I watched jackdaws attempting to hang on to the feeders while trying to feed from it. A pair of dunnocks were having a scrap with each other, with one pinning the other to the ground momentarily as their feet and wings frail and flap frantically at one another. I also manage to spot a redpoll and a brambling here too.

Blue tit building its nest inside this crack on Fen Hide
Small Tortoiseshell
With lunch over, we started our walk down to the beach. As we made our way towards the first hide, a flash of blue narrowly skimmed past the peak of my cap. It made me jump out of my skin, but I was still quick enough to turn my head to see what it was. It turned out to be a pair of kingfishers! They flew like bullets past me, vanishing into some trees and were heading to the pond we saw the redstart! I expect the crowd over there will have a great surprise when they see them!

Black-headed Gull
From the hides overlooking the main pools, we saw redshanks, avocets, a godwit in red breeding plumage, grey plovers, shelducks, a curlew, brent geese, teal, gadwall and shovelers. The staff here at Titchwell have now fenced off an area of the scrapes to protect nesting avocets and it appears to have worked as there are so many of them using it already.

Brent Geese
Grey Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Common Scoter
The wind was blowing stronger and stronger as we got nearer and nearer to the beach. When we got there, it felt like a gale and it was hard to prevent my scope from blowing over. But it was worth it as I saw plenty of scoter close to shore. The tide was out and I thought it would be great to walk closer to the shore for a better look. So Dad and I battled through the strong winds and cautiously over the fresh wet sand, finding a large starfish on the way, until we reached a patch of drier sand. We were still a slight distance from the shore, but we could make out the birds a lot clearer now. The wind was fiercer this close to the shore and it made it made it very challenging to get these dodgy, yet distant shots. The waves also kept hiding these sea birds, but from the photos I managed to get, I think I can identify common scoter and possibly a red-necked grebe.

Red-necked Grebe?
Water Rail
Making our way back to the visitor centre, we had one last surprise in store for us. We were walking along the path behind the feeder area when I saw two people staring down at the ditch beside the path. There was a pair of water rails hiding amongst the vegetation in this ditch and we witnessed them mating! Annoyingly, the vegetation made it hard to focus on the action with my camera and I failed to capture this raraly seen behaviour, but I did get these shots instead. What a wild and brilliant day its been!

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