A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Friday, 24 June 2016

Great Knot at Titchwell RSPB Norfolk - To be, or Knot to be?

Great Knot, Red-eyed Vireo and Acadian Flycatcher – the three birds that I have missed through being in work, due to them either being one day wonders or departing before the weekend came around. Undoubtedly there will certainly be another Red-eyed Vireo, and with an almost equal certainty there most definitely WON’T be another Acadian Flycatcher (at least for a very VERY long time!) but Great Knot?

Now endangered in their native range of Australia and SE Asia, and with populations in decline due to habitat destruction, there have only ever been 4 records of Great Knot in Britain – the last of which was the Breydon Water bird in Norfolk two years ago. Before then, the last individual was 10 years earlier in Lancashire back in 2004 - the chances of another one coming around so soon were looking very slim. 

It was therefore quite a surprise and rather unexpected when reports surfaced of a summer plumaged Great Knot found on the Freshmarsh at Titchwell RSPB – an attractive black and rust coloured adult. With the bird remaining throughout the day and relocating to the beach later in the afternoon, there was hope that we might just be able to grip back this mega wader at the weekend.
Great Knot - Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
The Great Knot at Titchwell!
With a hotel in Norfolk booked for the Friday night ready for an early start on the Saturday, things took a turn for the worse when just after lunchtime a report emerged that the Great Knot had flown east with a small handful of Knot, with no further sign as the afternoon wore on. Not wanting to lose money on the hotel, we made our way down to Norfolk regardless, clinging on to the slim chance that it may reappear at Titchwell in the morning. As we were nearing Kings Lynn, news emerged that it had indeed been re-found, congregating with a large group of Knot at Scolt Head Island (a small part of the beach only accessible at low tide slightly east of Titchwell) before flying back west come dusk. 

Things were looking up.
Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
Awaking bright and early on the Saturday morning, come 7am we received news that the Great Knot was indeed back on the beach at Titchwell. Arriving in the car park, we were met by the RSPB staff relaying the news to us that a group of Knot had flown east, the Great Knot unfortunately amongst them, having been present on the beach for just ten minutes. “It’ll come back” they nodded confidently. 

It didn’t.

After staking out the reserve for almost 12 hours in horrific and bafflingly cold weather conditions for June (I actually had to buy a pair of gloves from the visitor centre my hands were that numb) the Great Knot didn’t return, not even at high tide later in the evening as a lot of people had hoped. Hearing horror stories of birders dipping despite actually being on site when news was put out that morning, with others missing it by a fraction of a second due to the flock taking off whilst they were still setting their scopes up, it’s fair to say that the Great Knot definitely didn’t play ball on the Saturday. Despite the host of other delights that Tichwell had to offer (Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers, adorable Avocet chicks and fine summer plumaged Little Gulls), we still felt extremely deflated, and shattered after the early morning start, Alex decided we should stay over in Kings Lynn again in case the Great Knot made a return. 
Avocet - Titchwell RSPB
The Avocets and chicks went some way to distract us from dipping the Great Knot
Rejuvenated after a delicious crispy bacon pizza the night before, I set my alarm early on the Sunday and awoke to the news that the Knot was indeed back and showing on the beach. Panic stations! Rushing out the hotel, we made it on site for just after 7, sprinting the km up through the reserve and on to the beach, regretting our many layers of coats in anticipation of another freezing day and caught out by the rather pleasant sunshine. 

Arriving on the beach, the gathered crowd watching the Knot was obvious, and a large flock of waders were roosting on the sand in front. Half expecting the flock to erupt at any second like the previous morning, the jog across the sand was tense to say the least…
Great Knot - Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
The flock of Knot!
Great Knot Twitch - Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
The gathered crowd!
Luckily, the flock didn’t fly, and we were soon enjoying excellent scope views of this attractive wader, looking like something of a cross between a Turnstone, a Knot and a Greenshank, the gorgeous fiery umber tones mixed in with the sooty plumage on the back complete with a splendid black spotted breast and flanks. Standing out a mile, it was clear this eastern beauty was nowhere on the reserve yesterday – despite hundreds of Knot that could temporarily obscure it, the Great Knot was always relatively easy to pick out once you’d got your eye in (the small dark beady eye on a plain head was usually a giveaway even if the distinctive body was obscured). Success and a huge relief after the disappointment we’d felt the day before. Perseverance and determination had paid off – Great Knot was on the list! 
Great Knot - Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
Awful record shot of the Knot
Admiring the Great Knot for the rest of the morning, it often gave superb views as it moved to the front of the flock, showing off the gorgeous spotty plumage and showing well despite the distance. 
Great Knot - Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
With the flock flying down to the tideline and becoming slightly more distant, satisfied with our views we headed back to the cafĂ© for a well-earned sausage bap lunch before the long drive back to Cheshire. With the Great Knot still present, but often heading over to Scolt Head Island (where after an extremely long walk the Knot flock are distant at best) we were extremely lucky that it had decided to come back to Titchwell for the Sunday. 
Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk
Zac, who was also on site during the weekend, raised an interesting theory that this could be the same individual as the Breydon bird back in 2014, caught up on the western side of Europe and migrating back and forth with the Red Knot each year. This is only indeed the 16th record for Europe, and with a cluster of Great Knot sightings from 2012, 2014 and 2016 in Sweden, Norfolk, Poland and the Netherlands, they could quite feasibly all relate to the same bird. The Great Knot seen in the Netherlands back in only May of this year must surely be the same bird at least, relocating to the east coast of Britain, and it will be interesting to track its movements over the coming months (or even years). 

A great twitch and the sheer delight and relief we felt when we finally connected after enduring hours of unrelenting biting wind and driving rain is a great reminder of what twitching is all about, and that the huge lows brought about by a dip can be rectified with something as simple as seeing a bird. A successful grip back against the odds – now bring on the next Acadian Fly!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...