In the few weeks prior to this visit I had read daily on social media and beyond; many diatribes extolling the sea-duck ‘spectacular’ that was floating in the sheltered bay off Titchwell. However, I will never forget the sight that awaited us as we reached the end of the path; where a few birders were gathered – telescopes trained on the sea. As far as I could feasibly see the bay was awash with flotillas of sea-duck, bobbing passively on the millpond-like water which the grey sky seemed to merge into.
Birds were on the move all the time with small groups taking off and moving east and west; a quintet of Long-tailed Ducks, in their beautifully demure winter coats, silently passed over a huge raft of Common Scoter. Further out, a few Velvet Scoters were mixed into flocks of their commoner cousins, picked out by the flash of white in their otherwise black wings. Closer in a small group of Goldeneye paddled past, already practising their ‘head-tossing’ display dances.
The scene was captivating to say the least and it felt as though time had softly slowed to a state of inertia. My negative thoughts had wafted away as I slowly inhaled the view, my only focus being the panorama of winter sea-ducks ahead. My friend wanted to record some video footage and so I left him to his filming and set-up my telescope to properly survey the scene.
As I steadied my tripod-head and adjusted the focus wheel my peripheral anxieties caused by work and overthinking were blocked out. It was just me and the birds that filled this experience. On a still sea with no breeze or disturbance it is possible to stand right on the tideline. The gentle lapping of wavelets a few feet away and the sound of sea-ducks babbling contact calls is incredibly soothing, bringing an almost meditative state.
This state was broken by my friend shouting out “Great Northern Diver” a bird I had been hopeful of seeing that day as several had been reported in the days leading up to then. He directed me to where it was taking off from and I got its hulking, torpedo-like frame into my telescope view. It’s bulk akin to a jet taking off from a liquid runway, dominating the other seabirds present. This was a ‘lifer’ for me, a bird I had not seen before (in my life, hence the term lifer) and it was an added bonus on a grey winter’s day.