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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.