Titch not twitch!

Brenda had a day off today, so we decided to grab a couple of hours in the afternoon and have a walk at the RSPB reserve at Titchwell.

It’s fair to say that it’s probably the reserve we have both visited the most over the years: I think we both first went there together in about 1983. It’s changed a fair bit over the years – bigger visitor centre, some new trails, new hides and so on. Some of this has been to accommodate a larger number of visitors, and some to deal with changes that threatened to swamp the freshwater areas with sea water; hence some new sea defences to protect parts of the habitat.

Whatever the season and whatever the weather there’s always a good mix of birds around the reserve and today was no exception.

On the 1/2 mile or so walk from the visitor centre to the beach we saw a good range of ducks and waders, including a handful of avocets, and hundreds of lapwing and golden plover. A couple of grey plover were also around. The car park at Titchwell always seems to be quite busy, but somehow once you’re out on the reserve it doesn’t seem crowded.

just a few of the hundreds of golden plover at Titchwell today – I love the way they all face the same way; into the wind
A grey plover with a juicy snack (photo taken in 2019)

It was pretty blustery, making it hard to hold optical equipment steady, but we still decided to see what was around on the beach. I’m glad we did because despite the strong winds it was possible, particularly when we got a sand dune between us and the prevailing wind, to make out plenty of waders on the shoreline – dunlin, greenshank, redshank, turnstone and curlew in pretty good numbers. The amount of waves being whipped up by the wind made it hard to make out anything on the water, but we did pick up a single male goldeneye and up to 10 red-breasted mergansers, mostly male but with a couple of females. I always enjoy seeing mergansers, mostly because I specifically remember where and when I first saw one.

male red-breasted merganser (photo taken in 2019)

I was staying, aged about 14, at my grandparents house in Abergele in north Wales. I got up early one morning to walk the mile or so down to the beach to see what birds were around. It was just after dawn so no one was about. Walking along one small lane I almost had a heart attack when a pheasant launched itself out of the hedge next to me with loud cries! But when I got to the beach I managed to identify my very first red-breasted merganser. I was ridiculously happy and that sighting has stayed with me ever since.

pop quiz: what are these four species seen together at Titchwell today?

As the light was beginning to fade at Titchwell we headed back and sat in the Island hide to watch 10 or more marsh harriers coming in to roost in the reedbeds – a spectacular sight!

a stormy afternoon at Titchwell

Still no moths as yet, but Brenda managed to add some flowers to the list earlier today: “Two more flower species today. I was doing some gardening in my composting area and found some petty spurge, one of several spurges commonly seen. The field guide says it flowers from April but I think because of the shelter of the fence and its proximity to my compost bins this one has got cracking early. Then round the corner at the base of the garage wall I found some annual mercury that has survived from the autumn. It is often confused with dog’s mercury, which flowers from February onward, is bigger and has longer flower stalks. I didn’t expect to see to see anything at Titchwell (and didn’t!). It is too exposed to the elements – the season starts later and finishes earlier there.”

petty spurge
annual mercury

New species for January 12th:
Birds: red-breasted merganser, grey plover, turnstone, snipe, greenshank
Flowers: petty spurge, annual mercury

Birds = 78
Moths = 0
Wildflowers = 10