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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Review of the New Titchwell RSPB Trails!

As I ambled along the Fen Trail towards Fen Hide, I passed a couple of birders I knew who said it was a pity it was not a circular walk, as you have to return the same way. Maybe, eventually the walk will be a circular trail. The new trails start from the Fen Hide. It was a beautiful evening. I congratulate the RSPB on opening up a new part of the reserve - it was so exciting to be walking here. Spectacular new photographic opportunities - I later photographed mute swans in the orange reflection of the setting sun on the pool. I can't praise these new trails enough and I can see some good birds being seen here in the autumn with lots of trees and bushes to be searched – a whole new world! Lots of nice seats on route. Paths veer off from the main path to viewing points over the pool. At each viewing point there is a slatted wooden screen with tiered viewing slots for different height viewing. However, these viewing slots won't suit all, depending on your height, neither will they prove popular if there too many people of the same height trying to view from the same gap with a 2ft wide camera lens (you know what I mean!) My guess is though, that this a temporary measure until eventually when funds allow, the RSPB will build hides here. You need to allow at least an hour from the Fen Hide to enjoy these new trails. Other plus points - no dogs! I had lovely views of a Red-crested Pochard from the first viewing point. The furthest viewing point looks over the main freshwater pool/marsh at Titchwell and it was fascinating being the other side of this and looking across towards Parrinder Hide!

A board by the Fen Hide reads the following:

Titchwell Marsh
As you've never seen it before

Believe it or not, the area in front of you was once a meadow, grazed by sheep. But, as part of the Titchwell Coastal Change Project, we transformed the pool you see today.

To protect Titchwell's freshwater habitat and wildlife from coastal erosion and flooding, we had to strengthen our existing sea defences and build new ones, using thousands of tonnes of earth. By digging this earth from the reserve itself, we created a great big hole, just perfect for a new reedbed.

As you walk down the East trail, you will pass the end result – Patsy's reedbed. In the next few years, the pool will fill with reeds providing vital homes for rare bitterns, bearded tits and water voles.

Another board reads:
As part of our work here, we've created two brand new trails giving you unprecendented access to areas of this reserve that have never been open to the public before.

East Trail

East trail starts here and snakes past Patsy's reedbed, up to Willow Wood. Look out for pretty orange tip butterflies flitting over the reeds in summer, migrating warblers in autumn and striking teal in winter. By spring, the banks of this 400m path will be awash with colourful flowers.

Autumn Trail

Where the East Trail ends, the Autumn trail begins. This 400m trail is open from 1 August to 31 October and gets you close to all kinds of wading and migrating birds at the peak of autumn migration. Visit in the morning and you'll be treated to fantastic views over the freshwater marsh with the sun rising behind you.

My only criticisms are the following:
There definately needs to be a screen to the right of Fen Hide, as everyone walking past here will disturb birds being watched from the hide (I'm sure the RSPB already have this in hand).

More importantly I am wondering how much impact we will all have on the roosting cormorants and little egrets. I sat on a seat near the dead trees where they normally roost and watched cormorants flying in – they definately seemed uneasy about my prescence and circled round initially as if to leave, but then opted for the trees furthest from where I sat. The marsh harriers didn't seem too bothered though. Only after I got up and walked further away (on my way back) did they start to fly in and settle on all of the dead trees. Now there was only me here, there could have been several people and people chatting etc. Hopefully they will get used to people being here, but I'm not so sure.

Lastly, its going to be a long march if a rare bird is seen on a different part of the reserve!!!

I am really looking forward to returning again at the weekend in morning light.

UPDATE – 6 September

Paul Eele, Warden at Titchwell kindly informed me that the Fen Hide will be screened with willow scrub, when they start coppicing next month which is good news. Also he will be monitoring the dead trees roost over the next few weeks to see if there is any impact from the trails. Also re: the circular walk - the RSPB did look into creating this, but the cost involved would have been massive, along with the amount of screening required along the East Bank and and Parrinder Bank etc.


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