Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Titchwell time

We were over at the RSPB reserve at Titchwell yesterday, taking advantage of the good weather to crack on with filming of the next Bird Watching DVD. It's good fun, whispering to camera David Attenborough style and fighting the urge to shout excitedly every time a good bird comes into view.

We quickly found the juvenile Red-necked Phalarope that had been reported there, and although it flew off to the far side of the lagoons for a while, it gradually worked its way back during the day, until we were able to get good views of it behaving in typical phalarope fashion - swimming frantically in tiny circles to stir up food, and jabbing at the water with its needle-thin bill.

There was a Pectoral Sandpiper, too, although only fairly briefly, but we did get great views of four Little Stints that fed only a few yards from the path along the bank. Plenty of other waders, too - Avocets, Curlew, Curlew Sandpipers, Lapwings, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ruff, Bar-tailed Godwits, Turnstones and Oystercatchers.

We had a quick trip to the fen hide, and saw a male Redstart (my more patient colleague Mr Weedon hung around longer and was rewarded with good views of a Bittern, plus two Whinchats), then picked up an early male Hen Harrier hunting over the saltmarsh and fields just outside the reserve, over towards Thornham.

As I prepared to do a piece to camera scanning over the lagoons, virtually every wader, gull and goose on the reserve rose into the air making a huge clamour, a sure sign that a raptor was around, and sure enough a Peregrine dived into the heart of the flocks, although it seemed to come up empty-taloned. It was truly spectacular, though.

And the thing is, Titchwell is set to change over the next few years, as the sea encroaches. The policy of managed retreat means that some of the freshwater marsh will inevitably disappear. In the meantime, if you have any interest in birds and happen to be around north Norfolk, go and enjoy what is still, in my opinion, the RSPB's best reserve - accessible, compact, family-friendly and always packed with superb birds.

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