Sunday, 21 February 2016

Winter sunshine on Titchwell and Roydon

Thursday 18th February, had a great day in the field.

If I have a problem with Titchwell Marsh it is that I know it so well, I have been visiting this site on the north Norfolk coast ever since I moved to Norfolk in the late 90's and sometimes it is difficult to see the place with fresh eyes, I know where the Woodcock will be, where to look for a Water Rail when to expect the Avocet flock to start building in late winter and so on. So visiting with my young family is a great chance to slow down and try and see the place through the eyes of two small boys one aged six and the other four.
Water Rail at Titchwell, Panasonic Lumix TZ30
Last Thursday was a great opportunity to do just this. The boys, my wife and I arrived mid morning and walked from the car park to the beach and back. It was a beautiful, crisp blue sky day, perfect for walking and any birds would be a bonus. As we hit the start of the West Bank path I noticed a couple of birders staring intently into an overgrown ditch a pretty good sign that a Water Rail was showing and sure enough there was one feeding out in the open and both boys were able to see this only six feet away and without binoculars. As one old boy said to them you're really lucky I had to wait 40 years to see one [not sure if he meant 40 years of age or 40 years of birding].

As the path leaves the wet woodland it skirts the edge of the reed bed and a series of small pools and ditches. Just ahead of the family I picked up a Kingfisher flying into a sallow and was able to set the scope up on it. Amazingly it sat there for several minutes allowing both kids to get good views of it. The Kingfisher even hovered over the pool for us.
Kingfisher at Titchwell, hand held Panasonic Lumix TZ30 through a Kowa 883
After a visit to the beach we walked back to the car stopping for no1 son to admirea very close Black Tailed Godwit and then back in the wood by the car park I stopped with no2 son who was transfixed by one of the very tame and approachable Robins.

Later that afternoon having dropped the family off at home I popped down to Roydon Common for the Harrier roost. The car park was as full as I have ever seen it and about 40 folk stood on the path that runs along the southern edge of the depression that makes up the middle of the Common. Whilst we waited for the Harriers to come into roost I searched for whatever else was on show, this was hard work but I did manage a couple of common Buzzards in a dead tree, a distant hunting Barn Owl and half a dozen Roe Deer.

Then as the heat left the afternoon as the sun dropped behind the hill to our rear the first ring tailed Hen Harrier drifted in across the common. A little later the bird we'd all been waiting for appeared a Pallid Harrier although always distant it gave great scope views as it flew over the browns and yellows of the common and the backdrop of fringing bare branched silver birches, and would perch on a fence post for minutes at a time. At one stage it spent a minute or two chasing and being chased first by a Hen Harrier and then by a Carrion Crow and at one point put up a Jack Snipe from a wet patch.
Pallid Harrier hand held Panasonic Lumix TZ30 through a Kowa TZ30
As the light started to ease away more Hen Harriers drifted int and I saw at least three perhaps four ringtails and there was still time for more birds to come into roost when I left with cold hands and feet.
Roydon Common at Twilight, Panasonic Lumix TZ30

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