Monday, 23 January 2017

Jan 23rd Titchwell

Titchwell today
It was a frosty and misty morning at Titchwell today. Areas of freshwater were frozen over, including the first main pool, which was rather patchy with plenty of open areas of water for the wildfowl to swim and feed in. You couldn't help but chuckle at the teal and other ducks skating comically on the ice. Meanwhile, at the saltwater pools closer to the beach, it was completely ice free and waders were going about their everyday life as normal.

Wildfowl on ice
Black-headed Gull
Avocets, Teal and Oystercatcher
Ringed Plover

Grey Plover

Bar-tailed Godwit

One of the main reasons why I wanted to be here today, besides for a walk and to bird watch, is to look for seashells. Apart from being beautiful ornaments from the sea, seashells are of course remnants of an animal that has been recently disposed of by a hungry bird or other creature that wish to eat them. Many of them are washed along the shoreline by the previous tide and it is hard not to crunch them to pieces as you walk over them. These molluscs vary in many shapes, colours and patterns. Some, like the whelks, have shells similar to those of land snails, while others are two shells hinged together. These hinged shells are known as bivalves, which contain mussels, cockles, oysters, clams and many, many other species. Here are a few of the shells that I found today...

Common Whelk

Mussel (with Barnacle)

A colourful young Mussel
Pullet Carpet Shell
Smooth Venus Shell
A large Common Mussel
Razor Shells everywhere! 
The most common bivalve washed up all along the beach this morning was the common razor shell. This is also one of my target species for my year-long bug hunt. You can easily recognise them. They are like greenish tube-like shells about as long as your hand, from the finger tip of your middle finger to the bottom of the palm of your hand. If you find one that is twice as long as that, then you have yourself a pod razor shell, the larger cousin to the common razor shell. I can easily tick this species off my list, but what I really want to find is a living razor shell. To find one alive means that you have to study the wet sand very carefully. These shells, as do many other seashells, burrow themselves into the sand as the tide goes out. The trick to finding one is to look for a single small depression in the sand. Sadly, I could not find any of these holes today. If I had, I would have sprinkled some salt that I had brought with me into the hole, causing the living shell to 'sneeze' and pop up from the hole long enough for me to grab it. Now that would have been something to see wouldn't it?

Common Razor Shell
A typical bivalve - two shells hinged together

A Lugworm cast
One reason why I couldn't find a razor shell burrow hole was because the sand was also riddled with these squiggled shapes. These are the casts of ragworms. The worm is buried underneath within a U-shape burrow. The squiggled shapes you can see is actually the rear end of the burrow and the squiggled shapes are actually worm poo (don't worry, it is nothing more than excreted sand). Look carefully close by and you should see a depression in the sand. This is the head end of the burrow. It is amazing to see so many of these casts so close to one another. It goes to show how many secrets the beach has buried underneath the sand if you look hard enough.
Rear end to the left, front end to the right (the shallow depression in the sand)
Lugworm casts all over the beach!

Sea watching
Back to birds and there were a lot of them to see. Probably the best place on the reserve to see them was actually out on the sea. A battery of telescopes manned by keen sea watchers lined up along the dunes as they were glued to the action out on the waves. You actually did not need a telescope to see the common and velvet scoter bobbing up and down on them as they were visible with the naked eye. Using my binoculars, I was also able to see a couple of great crested grebes and I was told that there were long-tailed ducks out there too. Also today, I saw a flock of about ten bearded tits, a water rail, a snipe, a couple of pintail ducks, marsh harriers and a brief darting flight of a kingfisher.
Common Scoters

Pintail (with Shoveler and Teal)
Reed Bunting
Water Rail

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