Broads Tours is centre stage

Broads Tours became centre stage last Wednesday as BBC Radio Norfolk celebrated our fantastic National Park. The Nick Conrad Breakfast Show was broadcast live from the waterside at Broads Tours from 6-10am – showcasing everything our Magical Waterland has to offer as part of BBC Radio Norfolk’s Broads Week.

As well as celebrating the special wildlife and boating in the area the show interviewed a wide range of figures involved in the industry. This ranged from Broads Authority CEO, John Packman, and Broads Tours owner, Barbara Greasley, to Adrian Cook the Salhouse Ice Cream Boat Man and Broads Tours Skipper, Oliver Franzen.

Discussing the show Barbara Greasley said: “I was contacted by the Nick Conrad Breakfast show, who were looking for a busy place on the Broads to broadcast from, and I said they we would be delighted to host them. Aside from being a good excuse to eat pastries at 6am in the morning the show really helped to highlight how much the Broads has to offer.”

“The Broads is in the best environmental condition in years, holding 25% of all of Britain’s rarest species, and a growing number of people are coming to enjoy this. Our boats are also becoming increasingly comfortable and customers can really enjoy some five star treatment.”

The whole of BBC Radio Norfolkís Broads Week was very positive for the industry and encouraged local people to sample what’s on their doorstep as well as tempting people from further afield to join us too.

First signs of autumn

Despite last week’s unseasonal heatwave, which boasted the highest September temperatures on record, we are now seeing the first signs of autumn creeping in.

Cormorants are gathering and Canada geese have disappeared.

3 comorants standing on a jetty

The reddening  berries of geulder rose are highlighting Wroxham Island  with ‘Hawes’,  Hawthorn berries, ripening on the banks further down river too.

hawthorn plant with many berries

The changing leaf colour is a typical sign of autumn and in the last few days we have noticed the paling of the dogwood- now turning a lime green-yellow instead of its rich summer green.   The reeds that line many of our river banks have also been flowering, showing their delightful red plume, which eventually fades to a silver colour later in the season, as shown in these lovely pictures taken by Skipper, Tobi.

close up of reed

close up of reeds

Perhaps surprisingly, wild hops are hanging from their creeping vines like singular grapes – lending a splash of pale, lime green amongst the bankside alder trees.

We all know that hops are used in in the brewing of ale, and Norfolk is known for its microbreweries. It is possibly for this reason that we see the wild hops growing on the edge of the river; one theory is that some seeds escaped while hops were being transported by wherries (an iconic trading vessel) hundreds of years ago!

wild hops

Yet, with summer temperatures staying with us, we are still seeing the last few damselflies, demoiselles and dragonflies around, with occasional specimen getting lost and finding themselves stranded in the wheelhouse of our trip boats!  Skipper Tobi found a Damselfly on the Queen of the Broads and managed to take this picture before returning it to the wild.

damselfly on window trim

A recent sighting in Wroxham village of a single Mandarin duck in mid malt indicates the migration of some birds taking place at this time of the year. In this case, the solitary duck seems to have got lost on its way, taken refuge in Wroxham for a couple of weeks before continuing its journey.

mandarin duck profile standing on river bank

mandarin duck on bank facing camera

This isn’t the first occasion of a lost bird in these parts; last winter we regularly saw a grey phalarope which had been blown off course. It stayed around for a week, gaining strength then continued on its way.

Don’t miss our next blog – out soon – for details of an increasing number of kingfishers, herons and coots as well as an update on how our young greblets and cygnets are growing up!

Words:  Oliver Franzen and Tobi Radcliffe

Pictures: Tobi Radcliffe

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When good Grebes go bad

This is the dramatic moment a Great Crested Grebe entered a vicious fight with a rival male to protect its young on Salhouse Broad.

two great crested grebes fighting

One of our skippers Oli who saw the unusual behaviour unfold on one of his boat trips, along with surprised passengers and fellow skipper Richard, explained: “A male Great Crested Grebe began to attack a female Grebe and her young. The father of the young had to move fast to protect them and entered into a really serious fight which involved several bouts of ‘face offs’ and attacks. Both Richard and I grabbed our cameras. Richard got an excellent video of the behaviour and I managed to take some still photos (as shown below).

two great crested grebes swimming towards each othertwo great crested grebes fighting in the watergreat crested grebes fighting in the watertwo great crested grebes and two grebelets in the water

“Over the next few days the other skippers and I witnessed several more fights between the Grebes and sadly one of the ‘Greblets’ was lost in this activity. The good news is that the aggressive male has now backed off and the remaining ‘Greblet’ is doing well.

“This is really unusual behaviour and no-one I have spoken to has ever seen this kind of thing before. We always think of Grebes as peaceful, elegant birds and this has put a whole new light on how we view them! Our best guess for the reason for the fights is that they were based on territory or breeding rights, but we would love to hear from anyone who could offer a better explanation.”

You can view the fight between the two males on this video:-

In more positive news the single ‘Greblet’ at the bottom end of Salhouse Broad is becoming increasingly independent. Earlier in the month we reported that the Greblet was diving and catching fish for itself and it is now venturing further than ever before as it has been spotted fishing a good half mile down river of Salhoue Broad near Woodbastwick Hall.

Our trip boat – The Cordon Rouge – seems to be a real hit with wildlife. Last month we reported that Swallows were feeding their young on top of the boat and now we have had another magical moment aboard this lovely vessel. A huge Brown Hawker dragonfly settling on the Cordon Rouge’s railings as shown on this magnificent picture taken by skipper, Tobi!

We are seeing a lot of dragonflys and damselflies on the river lately due to the hot, sunny weather and this close encounter was the cherry on the cake.

brown hawker dragonfly on rail inside passenger trip boat

On the subject of Swallows, large numbers of these agile birds are feeding vigorously on Wroxham Broad, in order to build up their calories before embarking on their epic journey back to Africa. We see particularly large numbers on cloudy days, when there are more insects to catch on the water.

We are also seeing more Cormorants than usual on Wroxham Island and Salhoue Broad. These protected sea birds, which have come inland to feed on the Broad’s plentiful fish supply, are being regularly spotted drying their wings on treetops after fishing.

cormorant standing on top of tree

Cormorants exhibit this behavior because unlike ducks, for example, they do not have oil glands to waterproof their feathers and so have to dry them out after fishing. It is thought that Cormorants lack oil glands in order to avoid catching air between their feathers, which would prevent them from diving as deeply or quickly through the water when at sea.

The Broads most majestic bird of prey, the Marsh Harrier, has been spotted around Decoy Staithe in the parish of Woodbastick by our skipper James recently. The largest of the harriers, it can be recognised by its long tail and light flight with wings held in a shallow ‘V’. The bird has made a remarkable comeback after being mercilessly persecuted for many years – but aside from being a magnificent sight – it is always reassuring to see as the raptor as its conservation status remains on the Amber watch list.

Finally Skipper Richard and crew Krissy and their passengers had a lovely view of an otter swimming across the entrance to Wroxham Broad a few days ago. It was a really special moment for Krissy as it was her first otter sighting in the area!

Written by Oliver Franzen

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If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trips we would love to share them on this blog. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct

Sealing the deal for our boat trips!

Excited passengers enjoyed a great view of a special surprise visitor recently – a grey seal!

The magnificent mammal was first spotted in Horning before working its way up river to Wroxham Broad. One of our trip boat skippers, Oli Franzen, explained: “From a distance I saw what appeared to be a huge otter swimming confidently down the middle of the river towards my trip boat. I explained to my passengers that this was very unusual for otters, which are usually a little shyer, and that the last time I saw this kind of behaviour (on the river Waveney at Beccles) it turned out to be a seal. But at the time the surprise visitor dived under the water before I could get close enough to be sure what it was.

“Later in the day the other skippers and I got a much closer look at the seal, which had swum onto Wroxham Broad and confirmed our suspicions!” Norfolk has a large seal population around its coast – particularly at Horsey and Blakney Point where there are large and fast expanding seal colonies – but for one to show up in Wroxham Broad is remarkable as it would have had to have swum 25 miles up the river Bure from Great Yarmouth. What would have driven the seal to do this remains a mystery and the seal has since vanished without a trace.

This is not the first time a seal has been spotted on the Broads this year. In May a seal hit the headlines a little further downstream on the river Bure after local photographer – Clive Eaton – captured a picture of the maritime mammal catching the usually fearsome Pike.

You can read the full story about this in the Eastern Daily Press by clicking here .

Another lovely surprise has been a new grebe family on Salhouse Broad. Visitors were already captivated by two families of Grebes on Salhouse Broad since the spring but a third pair of these delightful divers have now hatched two much smaller ‘Greblets’.

great crested grebe on water with two grebelets

The whole breeding process of Grebes is a wonderful show. Its starts with a courtship ‘mirror dance’ for the birds to bond before they pair off and build a floating nest to lay their eggs on (as the birds prefer not to come to land). When the little ‘Greblets’ hatch their mums and dads then carry them around on their backs, which must be one of the cutest sights on the Broads.

The other ‘Greblets’ on the Salhouse broad are growing up fast. The single ‘Greblet’ at the bottom end of Salhouse Broad, which was the first to hatch and has been followed closely on the blog, is becoming particularly independent and we have seen it not only diving but catching fish for itself.

great crested grebe on the water with one grebelet

The family of Coots, which we featured in previous blogs, are also growing up fast as shown in these pictures.

three coots on the water

Our families of swans – made up of three sets of six cygnets in Wroxham and Salhouse Broad plus a single cygnet hatched later in the season on Salhouse Little Broad – are also doing well as shown in these lovely pictures taken by Skipper Tobi:

swan on the water with three cygnetstwo swans on water with cgynets ducking their heads under the waterswan on the water with one cygnet

Another striking image taken by Skipper Oli is this Heron perching on the back of a Traditional River Cruiser sailing yacht during Wroxham Week – apparently it wasn’t deterred by being at one of the busiest sailing regattas held on the Norfolk Broads!

heron standing on sail of traditional sailing boat

Oli also caught this shot of another fish eater – the Cormorant – perching on Salhouse Broad.

comorant standing on the top branch of a tree

Finally, the bankside vegetation is also a delight to behold with hemp agrimony, greater willow herb and purple loosestrife turning the banks shades of pink and purple

hemp agrimony Hemp Agrimony great willow herb Great Willow Herb

Words Oliver Franzen Pictures: Tobi Radcliffe and Oliver Franzen

If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trips we would love to share them on this blog. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct

Far flung visitors return to the Cordon Rouge

A family of swallows have completed their annual migration to nest close to our boat yard. They regularly perch on top of our trip boat, Cordon Rouge, where they feed their young fledglings. The swallows return to the Cordon Rouge each year but were a little later this time around so we were beginning to worry about them! We watched the adults bringing small insects to the juveniles as they sat patiently on the Rouge’s mast lights.

swallows on top of Cordon Rouge passenger trip boat in wroxhamclose up of swallows on cabling of cordon rough

Another beautiful, fast flying bird, the Kingfisher, has been occasionally spotted by skipper Richard on the river around Salhouse Broad. This is good news as these electric blue birds seem to be showing up a little less often than in previous years.

Skipper Oli and his passengers had a fantastic sight of an otter when it swam across the entrance of Wroxham Broad as they turned into the broad. Otters were once highly endangered on the Broads but are now making a real comeback, with their territories spreading all over the Broads. We even have an otter hunting in our boat basin in the middle of Wroxham (see previous blogs for pictures and videos of this)!

One of the benefits of otters being highly territorial is that they drive out mink. These species were released from fur farms by animal rights activists and cause real environmental damage. Although there have been many attempts to reduce their numbers over the years through trapping this has only had limited success – but the otters seem to be doing a far more effective job.

Despite all this one of our skippers, Tom, saw a mink on a boat trip on Woodbastwick reach and skipper Oli also spotted them in Wroxham village.

A new swan family with just one very cute cygnet has been seen for the first time on the river around Salhouse Little Broad. It’s much smaller and fluffier than the cygnets in our other swan families, which were born earlier in the year and are all doing well, with the older ones gaining more independence and exploring further, leaving their parents behind on occasions.

swan on water with cygnet surrounded by water lillies

We believe that the single cygnet hatched around two weeks ago on Salhouse Little Broad (a private, secluded broad that is closed off from navigation) and is now venturing out onto the river for the first time.

swan on water with one cygnet swimming behind

The family of Coots that we reported hatched a few weeks ago on Salhouse Broad are also starting to grow up and venture further afield, across the broad and even onto the river.

two coots on the water swimming next to river bank

One of the pluckiest little Mallard ducklings we have seen was on Ranworth Broad (accessible by day boat).

close up of mallard on the water with duckling

While being fed by tourists the duckling’s mother kept trying to steal the food first! Undeterred by such bad parenting the duckling kept beating the mother duck to the food. A large Drake (male duck) then moved in for the food and despite the massive size difference the brave little duckling chased off the big Drake!

We are regularly spotting a controversial bird, the Cormorant, fishing on both Wroxham and Salhouse Broad. The Cormorant is coastline bird, which is coming inland as the fish in the North Sea become depleted, and fishing is easier in the calmer inland waterways. Popular with some as a protected species, they are not as popular with fisherman as they are greedy birds and tend to eat more than their fill of fish!

greylag geese and cormorant standing on a partially submerged branch

On Hoveton Great Broad – a beautiful and remote nature reserve that we pass on all of our boat trips – skipper Tobi spotted two very special insects – The Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly and Swallowtail butterfly whilst taking a school group out on a Discovery Trip.

Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly

The Norfolk Hawker dragonfly is a very rare and imposing species, with clear wings, green eyes and characteristic yellow triangle shape on the dragonfly’s body. As the name suggests Norfolk is this large dragonfly’s stronghold and a species we are very proud of.

The Swallowtail butterfly is Britain’s largest butterfly – with a wingspan of up to 90mm and a distinctive forked tail like a swallow. These beautiful creatures, which have been featured in previous blogs in more detail, are only found on the Broads.

We will finish the blog with a couple of cute close up shots of a Greylag gosling and Egyptian gosling taken by Oli at Ranworth Broad, but also featuring on our 1 ½ and 2 hours river trips.

close up of greylag gosling faceegyptian goose gosling close up on watertwo egyptian geese with gosling close up

Share your photos

If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trips we would love to share them on this blog. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct