Birding with babes

Under a big bright blue Norfolk sky. A strong breeze blows across the marshes and lagoons. Grass and reed heads bend and flex, small waves ripple across the water. A flock of Brent Geese passes overhead, with a gargling call, moving from marsh to pool. Beautiful, elegant, smoky black geese with white crescents on their collars. On the lagoons there are flocks of ducks, gulls and waders including Avocet and Black-tailed Godwit.

These days birding feels like a military operation, what with two little ones and a dog, not to mention the kit and extra gear – there is no way we are getting to the end of the reserve and back without a picnic!

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Team Barber out birding

But places like RSPB Titchwell on the north Norfolk coast are perfect. OK, so with the pup we cannot go into the hides, but the footpath along the West Bank runs right alongside the lagoons and overlooks the salt marsh, and from here it is more than easy to see the birds seeking out this haven.

But the best bit, especially for a certain 4 and half year old, is the beach at the end. And yes its pretty special. Endless sandy beach meets endless sky. Here there is nothing to buffer the wind and it races across the open expanse, whipping up the sand and creating  ribbons across the beach. There are strips of beautiful shells and stones, cast upon the beach by the tide. They captivate young and old alike, and provide perfect decorations for sand castles.

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At the waters edge flocks of Knot, Sanderling and Dunlin race the rippling waves before lifting up in one silver flash of movement. Black and white Oystercatchers, with a gleam of orange from that stunning bill, mingle with Bar-tailed Godwits and Turnstones. Accompanying the waders are the usual assortment of gulls, but there is the lovely addition of three Red-breasted Mergansers displaying just beyond the shore. And for this blubber lover the highlight was a Harbour Porpoise foraging just metres from the surf. It was idyllic, even with the sand getting everywhere.

As is the way with our weather, in a matter of moments the sky darkens as deep, dark purple clouds move in and smother the bright blue. The wind blows harder and then then rain arrives, a pummelling freezing downpour. We dash for the scant cover in the middle of the beach provided by the tumble of stones from ruined buildings, left over from when the beach was used as tank firing range in the 1940s.

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Behind us the most bright and stunning rainbow reveals itself, arching perfectly over sea and sand. Over the reserve it is still dark and ominous. Almost as quickly as it started, the rain peters out as the dark clouds are pushed onward down the coast. The rainbow lingers, slowly fading from a full arch, to a quarter, to a third, before finally disappearing. The sun breaks out again bringing back some warmth and we head for the path home. Dark curtains of rain continue to sweep across the horizon ahead but we escape any further deluges, and overhead the sun continues to shine creating light and dark shades across the clouds, and sending golden light across the reserve and the birds that call it home.  


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