Welcome to the first sightings blog of 2021 – it has been a while but now that we continue to see an ease in lockdown restrictions, we plan to bring more regular updates of what is around the reserve.

With it being the start of April the first of the spring migrants have started to arrive and a few wintering birds continue to linger.

Woodland / Car park / visitor centre

There are a few bramblings and siskins lingering around the tree tops whilst the song of the blackcap is increasing as more of them return from their wintering grounds. Whilst we have been arriving on the reserve early for bittern surveys we have heard a couple of tawny owls calling away. A number of cetti’s warblers can also be heard and the first willow warbler arrived back at the end of March. Over the Easter weekend three black redstarts were to be found along the hedge that runs along the horse paddocks, whilst a common redstart was seen briefly on Wednesday 31st March.

Reedbed

Moving onto the reedbed area, encouragingly we have a bittern booming on a regular basis which can be heard best from Patsy’s screen. The marsh harriers are busy nest building, but it is too early to say how many nests we have. A few little egrets continue to roost in willow wood, whilst most mornings we have watched at 1-2 great white egrets pass over or sometimes drop into the reedbed. Bearded tits are about but can be difficult to see, so it is best to learn their ‘ping-ping- call.  Up to 5 red-crested pochard have been counted on the reserve in March (4 drakes, 1 female). There a good number of other wildfowl on the reserve at the moment including pochard, tufted duck, shoveler and gadwall. A pair of great-crested grebes can often be seen on the reedbed pool and the first sedge warbler of 2021 was recorded on 31st March.

Freshmarsh

As we leave the winter behind, small flocks of dark-bellied brent geese can continue to be seen dropping onto the Freshmarsh or feeding on the surrounding saltmarsh. The Mediterranean gulls have returned but not in huge numbers, however over the easter weekend many appear to have departed to Snettisham or Scolt. Avocet numbers are varying but they will soon be prospecting within the predator fence. Black-tailed godwit numbers have shown a small increase as they begin their migration to their breeding grounds. The first little ringed plover of the year was recorded on the 23rd March and sandwich terns returned to the area from the 25th March. 

Tidal and Volunteer marsh

Small flocks of waders can be found on tidal marsh including knot, turnstone, black tailed godwits and oystercatchers. Redshanks and curlews can often be found feeding on volunteer marsh at low tide. A number of shoveler and avocets can also be found on the tidal marsh and a common sandpiper has been recorded since the 31st March.

The beach and sea

A number of sanderlings, bar tailed godwits and oystercatchers can be found feeding along the shoreline moving up and down with the tide.

Ringed plovers, one of our important breeding species, are back on territory and can be observed displaying to each other.

A wheatear was spotted on the west bank path on the 29th March.

The sea is quiet, as you would expect at this time of year but there has been the odd goosander, red breasted merganser and great crested grebe to be seen.

Eyes to the skies

Last week  we saw the arrival of sand martin and swallows back to the area signifying the start of spring. More excitingly we had a white-tailed eagle drift over the reserve on Tuesday 30th March. The eagle was identified as G471, a male bird that was released on the Isle of Wight in 2020 as part of the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme. It continued towards King Lynn and over the Easter weekend it tracked south along the River Ouse, flying over a number of other RSPB reserves. Whilst watching the eagle the sky was full of common buzzards and red kites. If that wasn’t enough the next day two common cranes drifted over the reserve, these are likely to be young birds that haven’t yet reached sexual maturity.

As you can tell there is plenty to be seen across the reserve. If you are visiting do let us know what you have seen either by tagging us on twitter (@RSPBTitchwell) or logging your sightings via BirdTrack.

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