GuidesVISITING RSPB TITCHWELL MARSH, NORFOLK
From between the reeds, a bright face peers at us. Balancing, legs akimbo, each foot hanging onto a different stem, he stares us out as if we're the ones being a bit odd. His wings, tail and eyes complement the colours of the reed bed but his moustache is striking black, running all the way down onto his chest.
RSPB Titchwell Marsh was the first place I saw bearded tits, and we stood and watched them for an hour. Over our shoulder, on the other side of the waist-high grassy sea wall, a spoonbill sifted through the marsh. She was in the company of egrets, black headed gulls and brent geese (another first for me).
As you enter Titchwell Marsh, you're greeted by friendly RSPB staff and then ferried through to a 1 km footpath that leads straight through the reserve to the beach.
It's probably the most species-rich kilometre I've ever walked.
You meet reed beds first. Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive bitterns. They look a bit like a section of the reeds has detached itself and morphed into a small dinosaur. This section is also home to the bearded tits (affectionately, 'beardies'), reed buntings and warblers.
Moving further along the west bank path, with the sea wall on your left, you'll come to freshwater marsh and the island hide. We stayed here a while to watch dainty avocets, the poster bird of the RSPB (literally: they're the logo), shelducks, brent geese, teal and shovelers.
Freshwater marsh at RSPB Titchwell Marsh
After the freshwater marsh, a path through another green sea wall breaks off to the right and takes you to the fanciest hide I've ever been in. Snazzy windows that open completely, adjustable stools, the conditions are perfect for spending ages getting lost in the lives of birds.
Part of the hide looks back over the freshwater but the other looks towards the saltwater marsh, where we had outstanding views of curlews.
Walking through the sea wall to Parrinder Hide. The wall separates the freshwater and saltwater marshes.
Back on the main path, you'll walk past a further section of marsh which is tidal and provides rich picking for the waders at low tide.
Finally, after much stopping to admire the wildlife, you make it through the dunes and onto the beach which stretches out for miles in both directions.
Look out for interesting shells and lots of sand masons - you can spot their tube-like constructions of sand and small stones in the sand. If you find any that are under the water, you'll see their protruding tentacles poking out of the top of the tube like a mini tree canopy.
Other curiosities to enjoy include rocks covered in the hard casts of the keel worm, worm-like piles of sand excreted by lugworms, limpets, mussels, razor clams, barnacles, and sea wash balls (clusters of common whelk egg capsules).
If you fancy discovering a world of wonder on the foreshore, pick up a copy of the RSPB Handbook of the Seashore or The Essential Guide to Beachcombing and the Strandline from the shop on your way in. It's amazing how much you can see here.
During World War II, Titchwell Marsh was a tank firing range. You can find the remains of two abandoned tanks on the beach, which make for some lovely landscape photography shots if you wait for the tide to reach them (I didn't).
The birdwatching doesn't need to stop when you hit the beach. We watched oystercatchers picking over the shoreline along with dunlins and turnstones.
The reserve has plenty of parking, public toilets, a shop and a cafe. The cafe is small by RSPB standards and ran out of food when we visited, though, so take a pack-up. You won't get lost, but check out the map for an idea of the habitats you can see. Parking and entry are free if you're a member.
Being able to birdwatch in several different habitats as well as paddle in the sea and beachcomb is my idea of a perfect day, so RSPB Titchwell Marsh is firmly on my list of favourite reserves.
Saltwater marsh at RSPB Titchwell Marsh
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