Last Sunday I was one of 33 mid-Nene RSPB Local Group members who set off from east Northants at 7ish for the delights of the RSPB nature reserve at Titchwell. And delightful it was, too.
Heading across the Fens we hoped that the forecast rain wouldn’t arrive before we’d seen a few decent birds.
Just as driving across northern Ohio in May had made me think of the road across the Fens, the road across the Fens made me think of northern Ohio – the flat arable landscape, the lack of trees, the big skies and the sex shops. Yes, the adult shop we passed on our way to the very respectable Titchwell reminded me of stopping at a crossroads in Ohio and seeing a single-story flat-roofed building with blocked-out windows and large signs saying ‘Sex toys‘, ‘Adult shop‘, ‘Lingerie” and ‘Truckers welcome‘. So that’s what those captains of the road are wearing is it?
But the road to Titchwell is mostly a bit dull – the world has been designed like that so that Titchwell can be even more of a contrast and even more of a delight when you arrive.
Arriving at 9ish we de-coached and immediately the birds started coming, Within a few minutes many of us were having our best ever views of bearded tits. There were around 15 sitting on top of the reeds on either side of the path and ‘ping’ing away.
Some of the party also had really good views of a bittern flying over the reeds whilst some of the rest of us were beginning to pick out the little stints and curlew sandpipers from the dunlin. There were quite a lot of waders including ringed plovers, avocet, redshank, spotted redshank, greenshank, golden and grey plover, bar-tailed godwits, snipe, oystercatcher, sanderling and lapwing.
The weather stayed sunny, the wind was low and the rain didn’t arrive at all. Looking out over the sea there’s one thing you can say about the wind turbines that have sprung up offshore – they do make it easier to point out birds at sea. As an Arctic skua and a Manx shearwater flew east they passed ‘under the right hand end of the windfarm‘, ‘under the red bit‘ and then ‘under the left hand end of the windfarm‘.
There were also a few guillemots, red-throated divers, common scoter, gannets, a long-tailed duck and sandwich terns – and a honey buzzard flew in off the sea.
Around the new enormous hide there were a couple of whinchats and a redstart. A spoonbill which had been on the fresh marsh somehow got to the saltmarsh without us seeing it fly.
Some saw water pipit, others saw stonechat, water rail and that honey buzzard again.
The bird list was rather impressive (see below) and the weather was lovely. There was a grey seal offshore and a hedgehog had left its droppings on the path to the hide. Small copper, red admiral an speckled woods were seen.
Our group split up and coalesced at various points – coming together at various stages and drifting apart at others. Our flock mixed with other RSPB local groups (eg from Sheffield) and small parties of local and distant birders. We were just like the birds – some flocking, some staying single, all being mixed up and with their different journeys to and from Titchwell. And I for one preferred the toasted cheese and onion sandwich as a means of refuelling over a mouthfull of muddy molluscs from the marsh.
The demography of our party was interesting too. One of our party was in their teens but, unless my field skills are much at fault, there were no 20-somethings or 30-somethings and precious few 40-somethings in our group. 50- and 60-somethings were the mainstay of our party, and the male:female ratio was 3:1. That wouldn’t look too good as a stable population structure so it is to be hoped that we were a far from random pick of local birdwatchers.
Forty years ago when I was in the teen age group I would, I think, have leapt at the chance to go to Norfolk for the 15quid coach fair – even with a bunch of crusty old men as I would have thought those old men could probably help me out by showing me some birds. Where are they now? Do they not exist or do we not reach out to them in the right way? That’s the type of thing you ponder as you head home, near the back of the coach, through one short shower of rain.
|Mute SwanBrent Goose|
|Common ScoterLong-tailed Duck|
|Great Crested Grebe|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull|
|Collared DoveGreen Woodpecker|
|Great Spotted Woodpecker|
|Meadow Pipit Water Pipit|