Posts Tagged ‘Titchwell


A stint in the hide

Last week a Temminck’s Stint was wandering around in front of one of the hides at Titchwell. It never did come close; perhaps because it was being seriously bullied by anything and everything. I guess if you’re a tiny wader you are going to get picked on. Quite a plain wader but very enigmatic little characters these guys.


Well watched

I had to stop watching the Grey Phalarope today at Titchwell. It was making me dizzy. This living ‘clockwork toy’ of a bird was certainly popular and was attracting a constant stream of admirers.


Reedbed Pingers

As we watched the reedbed last week a party of Bearded Tit came ‘pinging’ over the path.


Just Dots in a Field

The crest of the coastal ridge around Titchwell is a regular spot to see Doterel at this time of the year. Birds drop in with some regularity to feed before moving on their way up the Pennines and into Cumbria, Scotland or beyond to Scandinavia. These are a montaine breeding species with a role reversal in the sexes. The male rears the chicks alone without any help from the more brightly coloured female.

Many of the 27 birds I saw in this years well watched ‘trip’ were female; many of the males perhaps already holding territory in the north. About half the flock are present in the photograph below; best viewed by enlarging.


Rallying Rail

Everyone knows that Water Rails show well at dusk. This individual had not read the books. Walking alongside the path at Titchwell it was attracting a steady steam of admirers.


Long distance migrant

The highlight of many a twitcher’s summer will be the Great Knot that is currently doing a tidal hop between Scolt Head Island, Titchwell beach and fresh marsh here in Norfolk. The unfortunate thing is it’s always distant and even if the light is good the heat haze makes a nonsense of any images. Nonetheless, it is a smart bird and much nearer than the one I saw in Teeside in 1996 and much more amiable than Norfolk’s first at Breydon Water in 2014.

Great Knot 1


A Dead Fish and a Lively Weasel

A beached Sunfish at Titchwell the other week had me combing the tideline for the corpse. I had been requested to take samples for DNA analysis so I was keen to photograph it, measure it and package up samples. The tide had taken it or the sand had covered it so I never did get to play with my scalpel and collection jar.

Consolation came in the form of a rather wick mustelid running down the path to the sea. Short tail, small size and a wiggly demarcation between the brown back and white belly told me it was a Weasel. Always nice to see.




Spot on


I was beginning to get that jaundice feeling on Monday. Too many hours on the laptop. I needed to get out and take a few pictures. I made Tuesday an official day to myself.

Titchwell looked good; it had a Spotted Crake and a Long tailed Skua around. I had another call to make on the way and arrived during the warm afternoon.

The Crake had not been seen all day and the Skua had disappeared early morning … typical.

There were folks in the hide that had been there for hours that were giving up on the ghost of the crake. I was a little disappointed for them as no sooner had they left than the Crake ran out from the reedbed and did all but a song and dance act out in the open; in fact everything a crepuscular Crake is not supposed to do. I took some rather distant shots as it came and went a few times and then moved on.

There were other things around; some nice Wood Sands and an absolute cutlery drawer full of Spoonbills but I decided to walk to Thornham Point. Mainly because I hadn’t been there for years and secondly that’s where the Skua was last seen.

I met and talked with a few others but all that was seen were a few distant Arctic Skuas and a bevy of shorebirds. It was a long way carrying a tripod and heavy lens but I so enjoyed the walk.


Spotted Crake

2014 07 29 Thornham Point looking east Norfolk!cid_80A688F8-AC6D-42EA-B900-5E5E0EA6D6DF

Any twitchers here? – I don’t think so!

2014 07 29 Thornham Point looking west Norfolk!cid_8F800B4F-FC3D-4F3C-81EA-12D17E783665



Booted Eagle and Slender Billed Gull

Falcon Cottage did it again on Bank Holiday Monday.

Distracted from the laptop I kept seeing messages regarding a Booted Eagle over Norwich then North Walsham and Hickling. Given it was probably the same bird that was in Kent the previous day the thought crossed my mind it was heading north and that it was worth a punt to stand outside and watch the southern horizon.

Andrew from the village had the same thought and joined me. It was nice to have a little conversation. We had only just finished pleasantries when I noticed two distant Buzzards both up in the air. Not unusual but previous experience tells me that the local Buzzards get up when large raptors pass through their territory. I panned right a little and there heading north was a large raptor. It was still distant and the heat haze was furring-up detail but it so obviously wasn’t a Buzzard; lots of laboured flight and gliding. Andrew was onto it immediately.

It headed north and was greeted by two corvids obviously so much smaller. The crows pushed the raptor closer to us and lower. I could now see white underwing coverts and black primaries and secondaries. This had to be the Booted Eagle … surely. It went behind trees and hedgerows on strangely bowed wings – like a kite. I never saw the ‘headlights’ typical of this species or the tail pattern. Despite our reorientation to the north of Falcon Cottage to have a clearer view of the west horizon we didn’t see it again. Was this to be the 16th species of raptor seen from the Cottage?

These things can be so frustrating.

Harking back to the 15th May. We were travelling back from Mull and had stopped at Leighton Moss in Lancashire; a great reserve. Sat in the hide I was searching for a Little Gull that had been reported hawking over the main lagoon the previous day. There are a lot of Black headed Gulls around this year. I caught sight of a gull flying high over the hide and away from us to the north east. It had pink underparts. Now this is not unusual in Black headed gulls but for the life of me I couldn’t see a black head. I couldn’t even see a residual spot. It took me a moment as it flew away and out of view but could this have been a Slender billed Gull? Laughable I know given the last record I believe was in the 90’s (correct me if I’m wrong here) but I thought it may have been.

I put a note in the reserve log to say I had seen a ‘possible’ and joked to my guests that if a Slender billed Gull turned up on the east coast  somewhere (the direction it was heading) maybe I was right. Was it coincidence that one turned up in Titchwell in Norfolk this bank holiday Monday 11 days later? – another that got away.

So no photographs of raptors or gulls – no time to take either. However here’s a pristine Broad bodied Chaser that had newly emerged at Leighton Moss – why a photograph of a dragonfly? – principally because it was close and it sat bloody still!

2014 05 14 Broad bodied Chaserl Leighton Moss Lancashire_Z5A8084



Grumpy Old Git?

We called at Minsmere last week. For those that don’t know Minsmere is a reserve under the auspice of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This is the same organisation that runs Titchwell Marshes in Norfolk (I’m sorry if you already know this but some readers in the States will not)

During 2011/2 the RSPB made some changes to Titchwell reserve and replaced hides. I did a write up of the hide design last year ( and it didn’t come out well. The new hides despite winning design awards were and are unpopular with birdwatchers.

I was surprised therefore to find a similar but perhaps worse design at Minsmere. The old Reedbed hide was in need of replacement and something clearly had to be done. A company called Gilleard Bros Ltd we drafted in to design and build the hide.

I love the RSPB – they do a great job and in the main they get it right; but a serious review needs to be made of the people within the organisation (presumably at the top) commissioning these hides.

Take a look at the photo below taken from the back of the Reedbed Hide on our visit. More photos here


Notice anything? It’s difficult to see why anyone thought it would hide its occupants – it clearly does not. There is too much glass on both sides. Someone has already noticed this as they have put anti-collision stickers to prevent bird strikes on the glass. It beggars belief that it has to be pointed out but these constructions will only hide the occupants if they have narrow openings and are dark inside – the wish to make them light and airy to attract more clientele and drive up profits is understandable but self-defeating – there will be nothing for them to watch. Indeed the only birds close to the hide were relatively tame Mute Swans; the short marsh area was devoid of Snipe which I would have expected to see here on a bright winter’s day.

The old hide had two tiers and from what I can recall would have seated around 48 people the new hide is one tier and will seat at best 20 with standing room for perhaps another 20 (*but see the note below)

As we sat in the hide our view out was severely restricted. This is bizarre given the amount of glass in the hide but reflective surfaces just obstructed vision. In the old hide my visibility would be restricted to around 170 degrees. Now it must be 120 degrees at best.

The openings lights are over engineered. Yes they enable wheelchair users to open window flaps without assistance but a better, simpler arrangement could have been made. The lower pane of glass is wound by way of a geared wheel into the panel in front of the observer’s legs. It goes too low and leaves the surface where you put gloves, hat and camera etc. too exposed. They will easily fall out. Several items of clothing have already been lost outside the front of the hide.

The higher glass panes rise on pulleys to near horizontal. They are dangerous. In high wind they come down – an accident will happen. *It suffices to say anyone stood up can only look out through glass when it’s windy. Goodbye photographers. In any case there is just too much glass – it’s unnecessary and indeed detrimental to viewing birds.

There is a long ramp to the hide, no doubt to aid access to wheelchair users but it rises well above surrounding reeds – it needs screening.

It has to be said construction is to a very high standard. Zero marks for design. In this age of austerity a good old fashioned wooden replacement would have been more than adequate and much better than what we now have. Please, please RSPB consult a few birdwatchers in the know next time. Please.

Wow this is turning into a long post but while I’m writing I might as well get it all out. The reserve at Minsmere seems as though it’s going through a phase where it’s beginning to look like an extension of Pleasurewood Hills (the local theme park for our American Readers) Swings, play areas and statues and the like. I feel as though a Wildlife Reserve is just not the place for these things. Or am I just being an old grumpy git?

I promise the next post won’t be as long.

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Apr 2023


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