Royal International Air Tattoo 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


With an entrance flanked by a line of Typhoons, Tornados and MiGs, this year's Royal International Air Tattoo certainly knew how to make a big first impression. We were there from the moment the gates opened, and a little before in fact, and left only to the nagging tones of a tannoy insisting that yes they really were going to be throwing us out unless we took our own leave. You already know what my personal highlight was (hint: it's the Vulcan again) but there was more than enough across both the static and aerial displays to have kept us entertained for way longer than the Sunday on which we attended. In fact this year's show eclipsed even the high standard set in 2014 with a vast variety of aircraft which thankfully moved away from the occasional 'grey fighter jet' syndrome from which these events can sometimes suffer. Much of the credit for that has to go to the individual air forces themselves who had broken out the airbrushes to create a frankly stunning series of liveries. Top marks though go to the F16 'Zeus' demo team whose classical Greek inspired design really lifted the crowd as a band of thick cloud threatened to disrupt proceedings.

P1140360 - RIAT Fairford

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Underwing and Overhead - Vulcan XH558

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


So here we are. The main event. RAF Fairford. Royal International Air Tattoo 2015. Three days of air displays, static displays and sun, yet, for me, I only ever had eyes for one old girl. As soon as the gates opened we headed straight down to the opposite end of the runway where she sat, waiting, tamed, brooding.

P1140366 - Vulcan XH558, RIAT Fairford

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Common Terns and Ringed Canada Geese

Monday, July 27, 2015 Adam Tilt 7 Comments


I'm a big proponent for making the most of any time we have to spend with nature and the best way of doing that is to chose accommodation with as close a connection to the great outdoors as possible. Ideally that would mean that we'd be camping every weekend but alas the British weather often has other ideas, as do our families. Even so the alternatives are numerous and careful selection has seen us range from a wooden cabin in Conwy Valley right through to gorgeous stone stables in the Peak District. Somewhere in between though sits the static caravan, a blight on our coastal areas for sure but also a more climatically safe choice when compared to a few nights under canvas. Such logic was the reason we found ourselves at Costwold Hoburne, a large site surrounded by lakes and just as importantly within easy reach of Fairford (oh yes more aircraft coming your way tomorrow). Mallards wander freely between the caravans, Mute Swans raise their families within view of chipboard heaven and, best of all, this year we were also treated to superb views of Common Terns. I spotted the first soon after we'd arrived and from then on they were an almost constant presence fishing around the entire park. On Saturday evening I decided to see if we could get a little closer and within ear shot of that nights entertainment managed to take the following photo.

P1140346_2 - Common Tern, Cotswold Water Park

To say I'm pretty pleased with this would be an understatement. It was the only frame I took, just before we lost the light, and I don't think I could really have done any better given my equipment. 

Also present were a small flock of Canada Geese, one of which was carrying a rather prominent neck ring. Trying to read the letters themselves proved somewhat difficult with the bird seeming to know just which way to sit in order to completely obscure my view. Eventually my perseverance paid off though and I had great expectations about what life story I might uncover.

P1140344 - Ringed Canada Goose, Cotswold Water Park

A quick internet search soon uncovered what I was after but alas the history of this goose was not as exciting as I had hoped for. It turns out that it was ringed as part of a Canada Goose research project in Cotswold Water Park a couple of years ago, meaning that it really hasn't travelled far at all. Still an interesting sighting nonetheless and I'll be submitting this record to further the research efforts.

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Lower Moor Farm - Dragonflies, Butterflies and Cricket

Sunday, July 26, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


Last Saturday found us a few miles north of Castle Combe in the south west corner of Cotswold Water Park. Better known for its sporting and leisure activities the area also offers miles of walking routes stretching between several high quality nature reserves. One of these, Lower Moor Farm, is operated by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and somehow managed to eclipse the previous days already impressive butterfly haul. In all we saw a total of thirteen species including new for the year Large Skipper and Large White plus a strangely scarce Speckled Wood. The Large Skipper was a particularly nice find and allowed a good contrast to be made with Small Skippers which were also on the wing. I'm pleased to say that my pointers to the rest of the group on this score proved accurate. I must be getting better. There were also large numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and particularly Gatekeepers about which kept us busy well into the afternoon on what turned out to be a swelteringly hot day.

P1140258 - Small Tortoiseshell, Lower Moor Farm
Small Tortoiseshell

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Castle Combe Marbled Whites

Friday, July 24, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


If you'd mentioned Castle Combe to me this time last week then the only image which would have sprung to mind would've been the circuit on classic Playstation game TOCA Touring Cars (still one of the best racers ever made in my humble opinion - it's a generation thing). I know this because Emma did just that and I suddenly had an urge to drive through a line of pixelated traffic cones. Apparently though Castle Combe is also the self proclaimed "prettiest village in England" and was rather handily located for a days walk on our way to meet up with the rest of my family for this years Royal International Air Tattoo. Even more conveniently the AA of all people have published this route which looked like the ideal way to explore an unfamiliar area of the country. What should now follow then is a series of photos showcasing a quintessentially English village but alas I'm going to have to disappoint. For some reason Castle Combe itself just didn't quite do it for me. There was a strange sense of falseness, of efforts to retain what charm there once was against an ever changing world. Yes the buildings themselves were lovingly kept with some truly fabulous features but the overall scene was spoiled with acres of tarmac, for sale signs, builders and far too many cars. Pedestrianise the place and I think you'd be back to a winner but right now? Sadly not. In fact the only image I was relatively happy with was this Woodpigeon up on one of the roofs.

P1140180 - Woodpigeon

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Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars 2015

Thursday, July 23, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


For those of us who primarily blog about birds, June and July can often prove to be a little sparse. Thick vegetation obscures even the most persistent of investigations and once those fledglings have left the nest and their parents care, the whole family seems to go in to hiding. Even garden feeders that just a few weeks ago saw an almost unbroken line of visitors fall strangely silent. It's for these reasons that recent years have seen a huge upsurge in the number of people who, once considered as pure birders, have found themselves branching out into other areas of wildlife. Moths and butterflies have been two of the primary beneficiaries and I now count myself amongst those who are just as happy to spend a couple of hours exploring a meadow as they are scanning for migrants come the autumn. Though I have yet to go on a butterfly 'twitch' (despite those Purple Emperors looking mighty fine) there is one event that I always look forward to and that is the emergence of Cinnabar Moth caterpillars. I saw my first in our own back garden several years ago and since then no summer is complete without finding my first batch whether it be here on our local patch or slightly further afield. 2015 has seen that quest completed in spectacular style with huge numbers of these distinctive yellow and black critters spotted this week.

P1140342 - Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars

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Swansea Bay Submerged Forest

Monday, July 20, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


One of my surprise finds during the Swansea Bay airshow (other than a passing Peregrine Falcon) were the emerging remains of an ancient submerged forest. Located behind the large outflow pipe in front of Singleton Park they serve as a stark reminder that the current city's existence is just a blip in time as far as the underlying geology goes. These trees would have once formed part of an expansive forest that likely covered the entire area, including what we now know as Swansea Bay.

P1130984 - Submerged Forest, Swansea Bay

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Swansea Airshow - Typhoon, Sea King and Red Arrows

Sunday, July 19, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


The undoubted highlight of Swansea Airshow was Vulcan XH558 (read my thoughts on this iconic plane here) but there were plenty of other visiting aircraft which helped to make the day such a success. Without support from foreign air forces it was left to the RAF to supply much of the machinery with the Typhoon being their first contribution. No matter how many times I see this fighter in action it never ceases to amaze me just quite how manoeuvrable it is, often pulling off turns and changes in direction that would send other aircraft crashing to the ground. Even better was that this year the Typhoon has been painted in Battle of Britain Memorial Flight colours to celebrate seventy five years since 'the few' fought for our freedom.

P1140059 - Typhoon, Swansea Bay

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Swansea Airshow - Vulcan XH558

Saturday, July 18, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


And now for something completely different. Saturday was the first day in a weekend of free air displays over Swansea Bay and for the first time since its inaugural year I actually found myself able to attend. In truth though nothing could have kept me away for the star attraction amongst the attending aircraft was Vulcan XH558. If you're not familiar with this plane then I recommend heading here for a bit of background reading but nothing you find there will explain the special place that the Vulcan holds in my heart. I first came across XH558 at displays as a child where that incredible delta wing stood out like nothing I'd ever seen before. Like many aircraft of this generation it seemed to possess a personality all of its own and I was genuinely saddened to see it fly during 1993 which at the time was believed to be her final flying season. However, an audacious plan and seven million pounds of restoration work saw her return to the skies in 2007 and since then she's been wowing audiences from around the world. 2015 though sees her return once more to the ground after another final flying season, and this time there will be no reprieve. She is already well beyond her anticipated flying hours and with the specialist skills needed to maintain her increasingly hard to come by, there really is no alternative. For me this is immeasurably sad as to lose such an iconic aircraft from flying duties will forever diminish the living history of this country. To see her one last time therefore was an absolute must and wow did she deliver.

P1140031 - Vulcan XH558, Swansea Bay

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Kenfig Great White Egret - Round Two

Thursday, July 16, 2015 Adam Tilt 2 Comments


If you read my post last Thursday you will by now know of the Great White Egret which has decided to take up residence at Kenfig NNR. Our views up to that point had however been rather distant but who cares when the bird is such a good looker. In fact I hadn't intended on going back for seconds (there's just so many other places to visit around here) but sitting through a week of frame filling photographs eventually wore me down. As a result I was back at Kenfig on Friday morning only to find the Great White Egret silently prowling through the reeds. It was closer than I could ever have imagined, and then got a whole lot closer still! Fishing all the time it slowly worked its way towards us until it was strutting up and down directly outside the hide. I could scarcely believe what I was seeing but my photos probably tell the story better than I ever could.

P1130884 - Great White Egret, Kenfig NNR

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Llangorse Lake

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


After my walk around Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad I popped over the other side of Pen y Fan to Llangorse Lake. Allegedly the largest natural lake in South Wales (a title also claimed by Kenfig Pool interestingly) it has in the past proved to be a fantastic location for butterflies due mainly to extensive meadows surrounding most of its perimeter. The hope was that on such a fine day there would again be plenty on the wing and indeed that proved to be the case. However, the strong breeze that had kept me cool during my earlier exertions was now rather more of a hindrance as it kept most of the butterflies from sitting still for anything more than a couple of seconds at a time. Add to that soaring temperatures and I really didn't fancy chasing after them any longer than necessary meaning that photographic opportunities were rather limited. I did however see plenty of Ringlets, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Six-spotted Burnet moths and even a Common Blue (I think). Those that I did manage to get a photo of included one of the numerous Ringlets and a rather fine Meadow Brown.

P1130841 - Llangorse Lake

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Return to Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad

Monday, July 13, 2015 Adam Tilt 10 Comments


Long. Weekend. Two words revered amongst those who have not yet had the good fortune to retire from regular employment and the reason why Thursday morning found me back at Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad (and yes I did have to look up the spelling). Our first visit to this impressive glacial formation was back in April and the birds seen on that occasion promised great things to come. As we were just passing through as part of a much larger walk however, opportunities for a deeper and longer exploration were limited. Today that would not be the case.

P1130754 - Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad

Despite it still being early the temperature was already rising rapidly when I arrived and if not for a strong breeze blowing in across Fan Frynych the stark embrace of those towering cliffs could have become very oppressive indeed. As it was conditions proved most pleasant and I took my time wandering through the wooded lower reaches listening to singing Willow Warblers whilst failing completely to actually see any. At least the insects were more visible though the sight of Horse Flies eyeing up my arms was probably something I could have done without. Far more interesting were numerous Ringlet butterflies and a superb Golden-ringed Dragonfly of which a photo was surely destined to appear on here. Unfortunately I got distracted by an unfamiliar call from the Bracken slopes above and by the time I'd turned back it had done a bunk. I couldn't be too disappointed though as the noisy culprits turned out to be two juvenile Redstarts! As best I could tell they were entirely free of their parents and looked to be feeding well. Though you can't really tell in these photos, even at this early stage of development that bright red under-tail was clear to see and a joy to watch as the birds flitted along.

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#pwc2015 Autumn?

Saturday, July 11, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


Over a month since my last Patchwork Challenge update is clearly not acceptable but rest assured the patch is still out there and, perhaps more importantly, I've continued to make regular visits. The truth is that very little has changed during the intervening weeks and is probably unlikely to do so any time soon now that we're entering the traditionally quiet summer period. What I have been enjoying however is watching both our residents and spring migrants going about their business and have made a few notable observations whilst doing so. Firstly this has been my best year to date for Blackcaps with at least two pairs having taken up residence in the valley woodlands. Then there's the Jackdaws which seem to have had a particularly successful nesting season judging by the number of youngsters which have been waking me up each morning with their incessant calling. My god they're loud! I've also recorded up to four Collared Doves in the garden (a new record) and been thoroughly enjoying the sound of Swifts screaming high above our village. Small events in the grand scheme of things but all important in the life of a patch birder.

Bringing things bang up to date I headed out again on Wednesday evening and was delighted to once more make acquaintance with one of the Stonechat families. Their fledglings are now well developed but that hasn't stopped the parents from continuing to guard them with an iron resolve. As a result it's wise to make any approach as quietly as possible and the thick Bracken now covering Bryn-bach-Common provided ideal cover for just such an operation. In the end I got as close as I could have wished for and even saw a bit of sun on what was otherwise an overcast day.

P1130713 - Stonechat, Bryn-bach-Common

P1130719 - Stonechat, Bryn-bach-Common

P1130727 - Stonechat, Bryn-bach-Common

Whilst on the subject of weather its worth remarking that for the first time this year things felt rather autumnal. Swallow numbers are much reduced, the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers are far less vocal and the common overall had fallen almost silent. Given its exposed location my patch always seems to experience summer all too briefly but I'd really like it to hang on for a little longer than this. At least the valley showed a little more life with at least two calling Yellowhammers, Whitethroats and best of all a juvenile Green Woodpecker. The heavily marked individual was a fantastic sight and given the national decline of this species a welcome one at that. It wasn't the only 'pecker about either as a Great Spotted shot through and started to feed on the very same tree. This is the first time I've actually seen one on patch this year with my current tick being audible only. I even got a semi-decent photo.

P1130740 - Great Spotted Woodpecker

I should also mention that for the first time in over a year the wind turbine erected just outside my patch boundary has actually been turning! I had begun to wander if the thing was ever going to be commissioned. Coincidentally the planned 16 turbine scheme proposed for another couple of miles further inland (though still visible from my patch and for which an access road would be driven through) has been rejected. Apparently the proposed land being offered as compensation for lost common grazing was deemed unacceptable. Can't say I'm particularly disappointed at that.

P1130712 - Wind Turbine, Bryn-bach-Common

So no new species then but a continuation of what has now become an almost necessary part of my weekly routine. If you want a good excuse to get some regular exercise in I highly recommend a spot of patch birding.

2015: 68 / 2014: 64

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Blustery Evening at Rhossili

Friday, July 10, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


Tuesday evening saw us enjoying a blustery walk along the cliff tops at Rhossili. Scores of white horses were being driven towards the shore at some speed and every now and again a huge plume of spray would lift skywards from the end of Worm's Head. Despite first appearances the quality of light was absolutely superb though and we just about managed to avoid the weather fronts gathering out at sea.

P1130701 - Rhossili, Gower

P1130703 - Rhossili, Gower

P1130704 - Rhossili, Gower

P1130707 - Rhossili, Gower

P1130709 - Rhossili, Gower

There was little in the way of birds on offer except a couple of Guillemots racing through but two Grey Seals were a nice sight. In fact I swear one of the latter was actually asleep as it floated along with eyes closed. Both Kestrels are still hunting in the area and sent the Pied Wagtails into an absolute frenzy as they swept through the coastguard complex, though in reality I don't think they were ever in any danger. Definitely a nice way to reinvigorate after a day at work.

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Great White Egret at Kenfig NNR

Thursday, July 09, 2015 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


There'd already been four different species of Heron at Kenfig this year when a Great White Egret turned up last week to make it five. It's been a while since I've been on a twitch but this one was too good to resist so with positive reports still coming in on Sunday we headed over. Walking down to the pool it came as a pleasant surprise to spot our quarry almost immediately, circling high in the sky but seemingly not in any hurry to be on its way. Famous last words and all that because by the time we'd made it to the South Hide the Egret had completely vanished. No mean feat when you're a large, white bird. A few minutes wait though soon had it relocated, this time taking flight from reeds at the opposite end of the pool (of course) from where it proceeded to climb higher and higher into the sky. The rate of ascent was both rapid and effortless, an excellent demonstration of what those large wings are capable of. Fearing that we were about to lose the bird completely I fired off a couple of hopelessly distant record shots but once again we needn't have worried as it slowly turned and headed back in our direction. We had everything crossed that it would land in front of us but alas it chose a distant tree and stayed there until we left. Still, what a bird and hopefully another step on the road to these becoming a well established British species.

P1130655 - Great White Egret, Kenfig NNR

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Llanelli Med Success

Wednesday, July 08, 2015 Adam Tilt 1 Comments


Work being what it is at the moment meant that I could only spare a couple of hours weekend before last and the WWT reserve at Llanelli sounded like just the ticket. Rocking up at the Michael Powell Hide mid afternoon we were treated to great views of six Greenshank and a snoozing Grey Heron before I managed to pick out a rather nice summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull amongst the hoards of Bobs (Black Headed Gulls to the rest of you). Concentrating a little harder on the flock turned up another four individuals in quick succession, easily my highest count for the species here and an excellent personal record as well. Sadly all were too distant for photos as was another pair of Meds over on the main lagoon. These latter birds were particularly special though as they had with them a chick, the second year in a row that these rare (nationally at least) gulls have had breeding success here.

P1130636 - Moorhen, Llanelli WWT

It's not just the Meds which have been getting down to business either with young Shelducks (humbugs), Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, Jackdaws, Black Headed Gulls, Greylag Geese and Tufted Ducks all seen. Also about were a couple of Lapwings, eighteen Redshank and a solitary Swallow, not forgetting of course all the regulars. Hopefully next time my visit will last a little longer.

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Titchwell 2 - Little Terns, More Avocets and a Bittern

Tuesday, July 07, 2015 Adam Tilt 8 Comments


We started day two of our Norfolk weekend feeling much more relaxed and fully enjoyed the English breakfast on offer at our hotel. Probably not the healthiest of options but we had a long days birding ahead of us and an even longer drive back to Wales, assuming of course that the temporary car repair held together. I had originally hoped to make it over to Cley where several Spoonbill had taken up residence but not wanting to risk any extra mileage we instead drove the short distance up to Titchwell which we knew would be more than capable of keeping us entertained for a second day running. The plan was to head straight to the beach for a spot of sea watching but of course it proved almost impossible not to get drawn in by the multitude of birds along the way. Chief culprits were Reed, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers, all of which were showing exceptionally well amongst the reeds alongside West Bank. We saw several youngsters of each but most stayed just that little too distant for photography in the early morning light. Didn't stop me from trying though.

P1130566 - Reed Warbler, RSPB Titchwell
Juvenile Reed Warbler
P1130573_2 - Sedge Warbler, RSPB Titchwell
Sedge Warbler
Bearded Tits were also on the move, though in much lower numbers than their spectacular showing on Saturday, but it was the Avocets which rather predictably provided our next stumbling block. With the sun beginning to break through their black and white plumage looked even more stunning than usual and our diversion into the Island Hide was an almost foregone conclusion. To my surprise we once again had the place to ourselves with nothing more than Avocet calls for company. Absolute magic.

P1130580 - Avocet, RSPB Titchwell

P1130584 - Avocet, RSPB Titchwell

P1130588 - Avocet, RSPB Titchwell

P1130593 - Avocet, RSPB Titchwell

Conscious that we would soon be losing the tide I dragged myself away but not before picking out a Little Ringed Plover on the fresh marsh along with a recently fledged Black Headed Gull whose parents were bravely defending it against the non-existent threat provided by a couple of passing Mallards. Highly strung much? The Plover is my fifth different site record this year which represents a personal success story and once again it was the birds rather leggy look which first hinted that this wasn't its more common relative. I'm sure there are probably better characteristics to look for but at the moment this one works rather well for me.

When we did eventually make it to the beach it was clear that viewing conditions were far better than on Saturday evening. We immediately began to reap the benefits as two small birds briefly alighted on the sand before taking flight and heading straight past us. After yesterdays efforts we knew straight away that they were Little Terns and by some fluke I managed to get a half decent flight shot showing the main characteristics perfectly.

P1130596_2 - Little Tern, RSPB Titchwell

Walking along the shoreline we were treated to a fairly regular passage of Little, Sandwich and Common Terns, all of which were actively fishing with some truly spectacular dives observed. When the trio were in close proximity to each other the size differences were incredibly stark with the Sandwich Terns completely eclipsing their smaller relatives. Perhaps unsurprisingly they were also the loudest and reminded me of happy evenings spent at Burry Port. Again flight shots were the only option with these being the best of an average lot.

P1130605 - Little Tern, RSPB Titchwell
Little Tern
P1130607 - Sandwich Tern, RSPB Titchwell
Sandwich Tern
Other than the Terns passage proved extremely quiet with just a couple of distant Gannets and a small flock of Whimbrel seen for quite some time. It was only when we got near Thornham that things picked up with a lone Brent Goose (later seen on Titchwell reserve itself), several Great Black-backed Gulls and another ten or so Ringed Plovers. As is usual around here we had a Grey Seal for company much of the time bottling just a few metres off shore and we also turned up a sadly deceased individual washed up along the high tide line. Strangely the head was entirely missing, probably as a result of scavenging though human or wild I can't be sure. We kept our own finds to more palatable affair, chief amongst which was this Sea Urchin. It's been a while since I found one in such great condition.

P1130602 - Sea Urchin, RSPB Titchwell

P1130603 - Titchwell Beach

Back on the reserve and if we thought our Tern views had been good thus far then we were very much mistaken. Both Little and Common Terns were fishing directly next to the footpath and frequently hovered overhead for extended periods of time. Absolutely superb views and probably the highlight of the trip (well almost, that honour goes to a bird described below).

P1130614 - Little Tern, RSPB Titchwell

P1130613 - Little Tern, RSPB Titchwell

We stopped in the Parrinder Hide for a good long while and it proved once again an excellent location to while away an hour or so. The large window openings offered expansive views across the gathered waders which today included a couple of very red Red Knots, the first time I have seen this species in full summer plumage. Equally resplendent were the black chested Dunlin but no amount of searching could turn up the hoped for Ruff or Spotted Redshank. There were however two superb Little Gulls and my thanks most go the person who pointed them out to us. We repaid the favour by letting him know of the Tern extravaganza being played out just a little further up the path.

By now the sun was really blazing and another visit to the Fen Trail revealed a host of insect life. A Four-spotted Chaser was my personal highlight but the Damselflies ran it a close second. At Patsy's Pool the Red Crested Pochards had increased in number to eight individuals but even better was a Green Sandpiper which had decided to join the party. This was my first individual for a couple of years and it gave excellent if distant views before vanishing whilst no one was looking.

P1130633 - Four-spotted Chaser, RSPB Titchwell

P1130630 - Damselflies, RSPB Titchwell

Then came easily the best encounter of the whole day. In beautiful late afternoon sunlight Emma suddenly shouted out that she could see a Bittern. I was onto it in a flash and man what a sight it was. Golden brown, intricately patterned and flying in full view along the top of the reeds. I only watched it for a second though before instinctively turning to a nearby family and made sure that they got to see it as well. The results were almost better than the sighting itself as both young children started jumping around excitedly. Turns out their whole reason for visiting Titchwell had been to see a Bittern and the reserve couldn't have delivered any better. Me, I've had to wait twenty years for a sighting here but that's nature for you. All that matters is that another generation has hopefully been inspired to carry on enjoying our wildlife in all its many forms. For that is the power a Bittern sighting can wield and speaking from personal experience I wouldn't have it any other way.

8 comments:

Titchwell - Breakdowns, Avocets and Beardies

Wednesday, July 01, 2015 Adam Tilt 6 Comments


P1130546 - Avocet, RSPB TitchwellFriday before last found me wandering the streets of London in a state of some bemusement. For someone who lives their life pretty much entirely in the countryside the presence of so many people packed together was a little off-putting, as was my inability to see beyond the next street or any more of the sky than a letterbox shaped rectangle. Probably about as far from my comfort zone as it's possible to get. Saying that the architecture was undeniably fascinating and by walking to the hotel I got to take in both Hyde Park and Regents Park, genuine oasis's in a sea of urban sprawl. Ring-necked Parakeets, ridiculously tame Grey Herons, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, a male Ruddy Duck (possibly a dodgy tick) and four White Pelicans (definitely a dodgy tick) were all there for the taking but alas I had nothing but my crappy phone camera with me. For this trip was not one of leisure, far from it. Instead it was my first exam in some seven years and rest assured not an experience that I wish to repeat any time soon.

Heading back West by train mid afternoon continued to deliver a surprising abundance of wildlife with at least ten urban Red Kites on the outskirts of Reading, a flock of thirty plus Stock Doves, various Buzzards and Kestrels and even a small herd of Fallow Deer. All of this whilst being whisked along by probably the greatest passenger train ever built, the Intercity 125. But I digress. Getting off at Bristol I met up with Emma, jumped in the car, and headed back East for the North Norfolk coast. After several weeks of hard revision a couple of days exploring Titchwell seemed like the perfect antidote and after a relatively uneventful journey we arrived a little after nine that evening. There was just chance to dump the suitcases before it was back out to Dersingham Bog which is apparently the best place in Norfolk to see Nighjars. Sadly for us we never got to find out if the claim was true as just as we were literally within touching distance, the car broke down. Warning lights came on, the engine felt like it was shaking itself to pieces and power was a thing of the past. Bugger. Fortunately we managed to limp back to the hotel but whatever plans I'd once had looked to be in tatters.

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