Considering I live on the south coast and Norfolk is around a 4 hour drive it’s surprising I haven’t visited before now. Mid June of 2014 saw this finally addressed as we loaded up the car and headed for our accomodation just outside of Cromer in a quiet countryside location. I was hoping to get images of Barn Owl and Hares from where we stayed but It didn’t quite turn out that way. The Barn Owl hadn’t been seen in weeks at the location and the Hares, although I did see them inside the property grounds, quickly crossed the open short grass in favour of anywhere that had some cover. I did give it a go, sitting out in the hide, but the best I managed was a few images of the local pheasants.
Once again we were really lucky with the weather. It’s easy to forget just how early it gets light at this time of the year and as always I like to be up before sunrise and in place with the camera to get the best light. Luckily my wife is understanding and happy to join me on the early starts.
Another small faux pas I made with the accomodation is that it was a little further from some of the sites on my wishlist than I realised and resulted in a fair amount of driving. Definitely a lesson learned here! At 4am though that’s a pleasure and wildlife is everywhere. If you get off the main roads and cut across between the fields it’s not unusual to have half a dozen hare running up the road before you, along with rabbits, lots of birds including Barn Owls and also Muntjac and Roe Deer. Virtually every early morning start gave excellent views before we had even arrived at our venue.
Our first port of call was RSPB Titchwell Marsh. I’d heard good things about this location and was keen to see for myself. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. You can access the site before sunrise (visiting centre opens later), there’s plenty of parking and the facilities are good. Our first foray onto the reserve took us up the western side of the reserve along a path that seperates the reserve from the saltmarsh. Great elevated views from the comfortable path with the possibility of seeing all the reedbed / saltmarsh and scrape specialists.
My main photographic target this morning was to be the Avocets. I do see them at Rye but really close views are not that common so good images are hard to come by. The same cannot be said for this location. Parrinder hide (south) was fantastic. First time I’ve been in such a “modern” hide and the field of view from the massive open windows was excellent!
The birds were happily feeding in the lagoon in front of the hide, at times they were too close to fit into the frame! Now that’s close…
I’m never going to complain about good weather but it has to be said that correct exposure for black and white birds in the sun is a bit of a nightmare. Added to this is the orientation of the hide in relation to the rising sun which was causing heavy shadows which meant picking your shots carefully to avoid the large contrasts. Certainly something to be considered for my next visit, perhaps a clouded day might make things easier.
With the birds feeding right in front of the hide you’d think it couldn’t get much better. There were clear territories for breeding pairs on the islands in the scrape and the pair in front of the hide had four healthy chicks running around. This did mean that the parents were extremely vigilant and were in the air and attacking anything that moved from Pied Wagtails to Shelduck.
A fantastic experience being able to watch these amazing birds from so close.
Although this was our first day, a walk around the reserve confirmed that I would definitely need to come back later in the week. The mix of woodland, reedbed, marsh, salt marsh and both salt and fresh water means there is an incredible amount of life here. I did also see Barn Owls (photos for another day) Bearded Tits and Spoonbills on the reserve along with all the usual suspects. The two things I didn’t manage to glimpse were Water Voles and Chinese Water Deer. Next time then!