The mystery of the Bufflehead duck

The Broads Tours team were all driven quackers on Sunday by the mystery of a very unusual duck, which appeared just outside the dayboat moorings.

bufflehead duck on the water

One of our skippers, Tobi, managed to take this photograph of the bird, which rangers at RSPB Strumpshaw have just kindly identified for us.  It turned out to be a female Bufflehead duck, a species that is usually only found in America where it nests in woodpecker holes!

So why would there be a Bufflehead duck in Wroxham?

The probable answer is a little closer to home.  The RSPB’s ranger, Leanne, said that Bufflehead ducks would be very unlikely to migrate as far as the UK and suggested that it might be an escapee from a private collection.

Having looked more closely at the photograph of the Bufflehead duck there does appear to be a yellow ring around the it’s foot suggesting it is indeed an escapee.  The duck has since disappeared, so we will never know for sure.

The dayboat moorings have also seen a lot of otter activity, with the dayboat team reporting that otters have been trying to prey on both a cygnet and a full-sized swan –  both of which fortunately escaped!

Elsewhere on the yard we had a female otter come into our wet boatshed while the engineers and boatbuilders were at work. And one of our skippers, Oli, also saw an otter pop up just in front of the bows of his boat near Salhouse Little Broad during a river trip.

In other news the Canada goose which we featured nesting on Wroxham Island in the last blog has now hatched some adorable goslings.

canada goose nesting

Here is the lovely family on a nearby riverside garden.

two canada geese one sitting one standing on one leg grooming

Finally we will finish the blog with this picture of a swan nesting, taken by one of our skippers Oli at the Ted Ellis Nature reserve in Surlingham.

swan sitting on a nest of dry reeds

Written by Oliver Franzen

With so much wildlife around at the moment why not come on a boat trip and see it for yourself?  For more information call 01603 782 207.

Queen of the Broads Completes Makeover

The top deck of the Queen of the Broads has been given a royal transformation and customers are now enjoying an unrivalled visitor experience.

The outside seating area has smart new forward, rather than sideways, facing seats. These give a more engaging view of the river and avoid the need to share seating with other parties as often, as was the case with the large benches they replaced. The central passage between the seats has also been enlarged so that people can move up and down the boat more easily.

queen of the broads internal shot of seating

A real advantage for private functions is that the seating has been specially designed to slot in and out like Meccano, giving more flexibility in the lay out of the boat for charters.

queen of the broads passenger trip boat internal shot of seating

Completing the makeover, we now have smart new canopies and life rings.

Not to be outdone, the upstairs forward saloon boasts a contemporary new look, having been completely gutted and rebuilt. There is new wood panelling throughout, soft lining on the ceiling and white and coloured LED lights set the look off nicely.

queen of the broads internal shot of tables and stools

One of the things we are most proud of is that we have much increased the size of the upstairs toilet in the saloon ñ making it more accessible.

queen of the broads upstairs toilet

As you would expect, the boat has now been given a full lick of paint in Marine Blue.

tom crabb on board queen of the broads

Broads Tours skipper, Tom Crabb, who spent much of the winter spearheading the changes, said: “I feel extremely proud of what we have managed to achieve in the winter maintenance programme.

The Queen of the Broads is now much more comfortable for passengers and gives people a better all-round experience. We are particularly proud of the forward-facing seats which afford a great view of the Broads and its beautiful landscape.”

Broads Tours Director, Barbara Greasley, added: “Tom and his team have done an excellent job and the Queen of the Broads has never looked better!”

Why not join us for a scheduled boat trip or even charter the new-look Queen of the Broads. Contact 01603 782 207.

Before and after

The Queen of the Broads has seen quite a change in the last three months. These before and after pictures show what the Queen of the Broads saloon looked like on 22 February and how it looks now.

Saloon – facing forward
internal progress shot of works onboard queen of the broads with man using power tools
after shot of queen of the broads when work complete

Saloon – facing backward
saloon progress shot
saloon after shot when work complete

New easy access toilet
progress shot of bathroom
after shot of toilet when work complete

Spot the nest

Eagle-eyed passengers are enjoying spotting our birdlife, including all three of the Broads’ common goose species, nesting in some unusual, tucked-away places.  The water birds probably pick these spots to hide from predators.

An Egyptian goose is nesting in the roof of a summerhouse in a riverside garden in Wroxham.

egyptian goose nesting on thatched roofclose up of egyptian goose nesting on thatched roof

A Canada goose is barely visible nesting in the long undergrowth on Wroxham Island.

canada goose barely visible in overgrowth of river bank

The male of the nesting pair is certainly making himself seen however, having stood guard near the top-end entrance to Wroxham Broad for the last couple of weeks.  He has even tried to ‘see off’ our trip boats if we get close to the nest!

canada goose on the water

Perhaps the hardest nesting bird to spot on the river at the moment is a Greylag goose tucked away under a tree at the bottom end of Salhouse Broad.

greylag goose barely visible behind tree and foliage on river bank

The Great Crested Grebe pair that we featured in our last blog building a floating nest on the river in Woodbastwick are doing well.  The male grebe has been very diligent, regularly bringing large lily leaves to add to the nest as shown below, as well as catching fish to feed his partner with.

great crested grebe on floating nest

A little further upstream we managed to get a picture of another grebe catching fish.

great crested grebe on water with fish in its mouth

Perhaps what has delighted passengers most of all though is the ducks and geese that have already hatched their adorable young.

This lovely picture shows a family of Greylag geese with their beautiful little goslings that are only a few days old near the top end entrance to Wroxham Broad.

two grelag geese flanking goslings next to river bank

A second Greylag family, with equally cute goslings, are spending much of their time on a riverside garden at the bottom end of Wroxham village.

Last but not least, we have two mallard duck families in this area.

duck on the water with a duckling swimming on each side

Words and images – Oliver Franzen

Nature springs to life

The Broads are bursting into life with our resident birdlife busily performing their breeding rituals. And signalling the coming of spring, the first Swallows have arrived on Wroxham Broad after their long journey from Africa.

Passengers have been delighted by our first brood of Mallard Ducklings on the River Bure, just downstream from Wroxham Village. Very cute!

ducks with many ducklings following behindA Great Crested Grebe pair are nesting on the river, near Woodbastwick, and are incubating their eggs as shown below.

grebe on a floating nest

Another pair of Great Crested Grebes started building a nest a little further upstream on Salhouse Broad, but appear to have abandoned it.  This is not unusual, as Great Crested Grebes quite often have a few attempts at making a nest before sticking with their perfect ‘family home’.

Canada, Greylag and Egyptian geese are also nesting on Wroxham Island and have been fighting over the best spots for the last month or so.

egyptian goose on dry nest on river bank

two canada geese on water next to river bank

Elsewhere, on Hickling Broad, we have spotted our first brood of lovely little Egyptian Goose goslings being well cared for by their attentive parents. This pair of geese hatched their young on almost exactly the same date last year – as shown in the picture below:

two adult egyptian geese paddling with two goslings

Not to be left out, our swans are in full swing with their mating rituals.  We captured ‘the moment’ with this amorous couple in our boat basin.

two swan intertwining necks

We have also enjoyed some lovely sightings of Kingfishers and Marsh Harriers since the last blog.

This picture shows a Kingfisher perched on a branch near Bridge Broad.

kingfisher perched on branch

This photograph captures the moment a Marsh Harrier swooped low over the marshes on the opposite side of the river to Wroxham Broad.  At the time this picture was taken we were lucky enough to see two Marsh Harriers and two Buzzards all in the same location!

marsh harrier in flight from below

Why not come on a boat trip and see the wildlife for yourself!  Our regular 2017 trip boat timetable started at the beginning of this month and is now running seven days a week.  Click to see the river trip timetable or call 01603 782 207.

Pike fishing season comes to an exciting close – bring on June 16th

The coarse fishing season drew to an exciting close on Wednesday (15 March) leaving fisherman anticipating some more great sport when the new season opens on June 16th. The Broads is legendary for its pike fishing and the last few months have produced some great catches, with pike being caught to well over 20lbs in and around Wroxham.

One of our skippers and keen fisherman, Oliver Franzen, hired one of our day boats last Saturday and Sunday and took to the water to try his luck with only a few days left in the season.
As someone who has spent the last twenty five years obsessively pike fishing on the Broads, the last weekend of the fishing season is always a very special time for meÖ.Itís a last chance to try and catch that mystical whopper that could be just another cast away.

This year I had a bit of a treat because rather than being crammed into the usual small little rowing boat I borrowed a Broads Tours Day boat with enough room to stretch out, while still leaving plenty of space to fish from the stern of the boat with the canopy down.

Hopes were high on Saturday morning as I headed downriver with my girlfriend towards Belaugh (in the direction of Coltishall.) The weather was warm and dry and another fisherman had already caught a 19lb pike close to Wroxham Bridge!

The first bit of action came when I landed a small jack pike about three pounds on a floated smelt while moored up close to Belaugh church. I was excited to get off the mark but my girlfriend ñ with whom I was enjoying a strawberries and cream picnic at the time and had come to read magazines and sit in the sunshine – didnít look quite as pleased as me!

The best of the action was to come later in the day though, when I fished a tight bend and had a tremendous run on floating smelt. As soon as I struck the fish felt solid and gave me a superb fight for around 10 minutes, making long runs across the river and even tail-walking. By the time I had landed the pike my arm was aching and I was delighted to have banked probably my biggest fish of the season shown below.

man holding large pike in day boat

Only a few minutes after returning the first pike I had another run on smelt and by ironic contrast landed my smallest pike of the season ñ barely a pound ñ before having to return back to Broads Tours before dark.

The following day I headed out full of expectation with an old fishing pal. He almost immediately struck into a good pike in the entrance to Bridge Broad, upstream from Wroxham, but sadly it came off. That seemed to set the tone for the day because despite having quite a few runs we either struck into nothing or the pike dropped the bait before landing them.

It didnít spoil the day though as we were treated to some wonderful wildlife that came close to us while sitting quietly fishing. The kingfisher shown below perched on a branch near us, a water deer stealthily past on the opposite bank and marsh harriers and buzzards soared over head.

kingfisher sitting on branch

But the PiËce de rÈsistance came when an otter swam across the river right next to our moored boat. A fabulous sight ñ that nearly made up for loosing yet another pike a few minutes later!

Thanks to Broads Tours for a great weekend and Iím already looking forward to the next fishing season!