Readers of my last post will probably have realised that quite a lot of our time in Norfolk was spent on the RSPB’s fantastic reserve at Titchwell. It wasn’t just the birds that kept drawing us back but rather the whole atmosphere of the place. I have never known anywhere quite so relaxing and rewarding to while away the last few hours of daylight. One of the revelations of the reserve were the new hides that have been built in such a way as to make you feel part of the landscape instead of giving the impression that you are sat in a garden shed. Much of these improvements have come about as a result of the extensive modifications that the RSPB have undertaken over the last couple of years to secure the reserves future in the face of rising sea levels. More information on the work can be found here and is well worth a read for those interested in how we can manage our eroding coastline.
One of the best features of Titchwell is the embankment that leads straight out to the beach. Unlike a lot of nature reserves you are completely exposed while walking along it and have wide ranging views across the various pools and marshes. As a result of constant exposure many of the birds are now perfectly at home with the presence of humans and venture right up to the path allowing for some excellent close-up views. Dabbling Teals were by far the most numerous but Redshank, Little Grebe, Jack Snipe, Water Rail, Common Snipe and this Black Tailed Godwit were all seen at just a few meters distance.
My main reason for wanting to visit Norfolk was to see the huge wader flocks for which it is famous. Titchwell has its fair share of these and during our time there it was the turn of the Golden Plovers to put on a show. Every now and then, and for no discernible reason, the whole flock would take to the air and make some fantastic shapes in the air before returning to ground.
Titchwell’s sandy beach sits at the end of the main path and is for many the highlight of the reserve. It stretches for miles in each direction and is largely deserted apart from the birds. Out on the sea we spotted Red Throated Divers and Great Crested Grebes whilst on the sand a still summer plumaged Grey Plover and various Turnstones and Ringed Plovers were present. It was the Sanderlings that really caught my eye though so I moved closer to the water and crouched down. I fully expected them to run away but they were completely oblivious to my presence and continued to feed all around me. Photographing them was difficult as they were constantly on the move, and with so many in range I would often find myself following one only to look up and see another right next to me. Definitely a memorable experience.
During our last evening at Titchwell we were treated to a pair of beautiful Barn Owls hunting over the reeds, but it was a couple of days earlier that I finally got to see this enigmatic species for the first time. We had just driven through Marston and I was accelerating away when Emma shouted out that she could see a Barn Owl sat on a fence post in one of the fields. In complete contravention of the highway code I instinctively braked sharply and glanced across just in time to see that she was right! Back on the throttle we found a farmers gate to turn round in and were soon parked up on the verge watching our first ever Barn Owl. It was clearly eyeing up the vegetation beneath it and on a couple of occasions dropped down as if to catch something. The light was failing badly but I took a record shot anyway as I could scarcely believe we had finally found ourselves in the right place at the right time.
Eventually the owl moved further along the fence and out of sight behind a stable building, so we got back in the car and continued our journey. A few miles further on and we had just reached the outskirts of Cley when to my disbelief I spotted another Barn Owl flying across the road. In a flurry of ABS I stopped in a gravel pull-off and was able to watch the owl fly on across the farmland before vanishing behind some trees. After such an unbelievable couple of sightings we weren’t surprised to find the original individual back on its post as we returned to our cottage.
The final bird to share from our trip is the rather strange looking Egyptian Goose, an escaped collection species that now has a healthy feral population in the UK. On my last visit to Norfolk we saw just one compared to the several flocks witnessed this time around. Titchwell and Cley both held good numbers but it was on the Holkham estate that their numbers were really booming. It was there that I was finally able to get close enough to one for a couple of photos.
Although not a true native to these shores they definitely add something a little bit exotic to our normal wildfowl species.