An RSPB Warden with a Passion for Birds
The countryside and coastline of North Norfolk is home to a huge variety of wildlife. Twitchers, photographers and animal enthusiasts visit the area all year round to enjoy a host of RSPB, National Trust and Wildlife Trust sites.
Nature enthusiast Paul Eele, 40, has lived in North Norfolk for 14 years and can attest to the great selection of wildlife you can see.
“I love any activity that’s based outside, but bird watching and walking are at the top of my list. The great thing about North Norfolk is the massive variety of habitats, which are all great to explore. We have coastal habitats, large wetlands in the Broads, heathland and woodland in the Brecks, and some great areas of farmland too. All have their own character and are home to different types of wildlife. My favourite is the coast, as I love the landscape views and beautiful big skies.
“I’ve always been interested in birds, so supporting the RSPB was an easy choice. I like to visit wildlife reserves in North Norfolk as well as other parts of the country, usually going with friends or family.”
A Warden Focused on Conservation
Paul works at RSPB Titchwell Marsh as the site warden, where he gets to enjoy North Norfolk wildlife whilst working to maintain and improve its habitats.
“The great thing about being a warden is that no two days are the same. I could be cutting the reedbeds, leading guided walks, filling out funding applications, recruiting new volunteers or monitoring the wildlife on the reserve. At the moment, I’m planning a project to improve the reedbed for wildlife.
“As warden, I’m responsible for all conservation work that’s carried out on the reserve, and my main aim is to protect the habitats and their associated wildlife. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers manage the areas throughout the year. My role is to organise and implement this work and sometimes get out and get my hands dirty too.
“I’ve been warden at Titchwell since 2002, and although the reserve has changed since the early 1970’s, the feel of the place is still the same. Visitor facilities have improved, with a lovely visitor centre and small café. Lots of the viewing hides have been improved over the last five years and we’re currently replacing the wooden walkways for better access.”
RSPB Titchwell is especially known for its conservation work and encouragement of rare breeds.
Paul said, “There are four key breeding species on the reserve that have restricted breeding ranges. The bittern, marsh harrier and bearded tit can be found in the reedbed, while avocets nest on the freshwater lagoon. There are no breeding programmes on the reserve – the birds nest because of the conditions that are created through habitat management work.
“The reserve has a wide variety of habitats in a small area, including woodland, scrub, reedbeds, freshwater and tidal lagoons, saltmarsh, sand dunes, beach and the open sea. These habitats encourage the large selection of wildlife that live here.
“The lagoons hold lots of ducks and geese in the winter, woodland birds like robins and blue tits can be found in the scrubby area around the car park, and lots of birds can be found on the beach, including flocks of oystercatchers at high tide. The reserve also attracts butterflies and dragonflies, Chinese water deer can be seen on the saltmarsh throughout the year, and water voles and otters live in the reedbeds, although they are very hard to see.”
A Fun and Educational Day Trip
RSPB Titchwell attracts a mixture of visitors, from experienced bird enthusiasts to school parties.
Paul said, “The reserve runs three guided walks every week and during the school holidays there are activities for families and children. The activities are great for getting children and first time visitors involved, especially things like Birding for Beginners and Wildlife Photography for Beginners. The guided walks give people the ideal opportunity to learn about bird identification, the wildlife of the reserve, its history and its management. They’re always different depending on the time of year and what’s happening on the site.
“I can also provide a personal guide for anyone who is interested, where I can give people in-depth talks about the reserve and birds in general.”
Visitor Experience manager, Carrie Carey, said, “Here at Titchwell we are passionate about getting young people outside and experiencing nature first-hand. Walking around Titchwell is an education in itself and nature is the best teacher we know. Every season creates a new classroom where visitors can witness the sights, sounds and colours of nature. Children can peek under bug flaps or discover what’s hiding in our ‘feely boxes’, listen out for booming bitterns and watch harriers sky dancing over the marsh.
“Nature conservation is at the heart of everything we do at Titchwell. We are lucky to have a diversity of habitats on the reserve where visitors can experience nature up close. Here they can see birds and other wildlife in natural surroundings, exhibiting natural behaviours. We know that every species is unique yet interconnected within each eco-system and nature as a whole. We’re giving nature a home, a place to thrive and survive.
“Targeted conservation together with the support of local communities can turn the tide against habitat loss. Engaging and inspiring people to create a thriving natural environment in their own greenspace is a major step forward in securing nature’s recovery.”
Something for Everyone
Paul would recommend RSPB Titchwell as a fun day out for everyone, no matter their wildlife or birding knowledge.
“Titchwell attracts a wide variety of visitors from keen birdwatchers, families and overseas tour groups, to people visiting the countryside for the first time. For me, the best thing about Titchwell is that whatever the weather or time of year, there is always something to see.
“Although the reserve is fairly compact, there is lots to see and do, plus you don’t need to walk far. You can also guarantee a friendly welcome whenever you visit.”
Facilities, Price and Parking
The reserve has a large car park with toilets, shop and café situated in the visitor centre. Charges are £5 per car for non-members.
RSPB Titchwell is a 40 minute drive from the Blakeney Cottage Company HQ.