All go on the spring front

We are now over a week into May, and the changes are happening daily. Gone are the yellow flowers of daffodils and marsh marigold, replaced by whites of hawthorn and elder on the banks with delicate flowers of Jack by the Hedge appearing where clearance work was carried out in the winter.

From the vantage point of the wheelhouse on our trip boats, the skippers have a good view of our nesting birds and have been keeping an eye on a few. In particular, there are seven Great Crested grebes nests along the banks and sheltered in the broads.

However, it was none of these to hatch first.

At the beginning of the week, on Salhouse Broad in a distance corner, two grebes were seen swimming around with well camouflaged small fuzzy little shapes around them. Upon closer inspection, it turned out there were three ‘grebelets’, so tiny and stripy, looking for protection on mother’s back. One of our day boat lads, Matt, managed to capture them on camera whilst out exploring.

Grebes spend about four weeks incubating their eggs, so we should see some of the other nesting grebes hatch out some young soon.

Perhaps some of the cutest young birds out right now are the cygnets. First spotted on Saturday, a small family of swans bearing two cygnets near Decoy Staithe were being most adorable as we passed; one cygnet was already sheltered between mum’s wings and as we watched from the Queen of the Broads, its sibling struggled and kicked to join it in the comfort of the feathery enclosure.

Just a few days later, our skipper Richard spotted the largest family of cygnets we have seen for a while emerging from one of the dykes in the village. Here the swans have successfully hatched out eight cygnets! They seem to be using the same territory as a family of six last year, so we’ll keep an eye on them and see how they do. On Wednesday skipper Tobi reported only three of this family swimming around, but that’s because the other five were all hitching a ride on mum’s back!


Join our “Grebe nest Safari”!

Our river trips are something of a Great Crested Grebe nest and ‘newly hatched’ safari now.

In addition to Great Crested Grebes nesting on Salhouse Little Broad and a river bend in Woodbastwick, there are at least five Grebes nests on Salhouse Broad.  Remarkably four of these are very close together in what should be called “Grebe Bay”, near a spit of trees at the top end of the broad (shown below)!

Our passengers have loved seeing so many Grebe nests close together and watching the male Great Crested Grebes tirelessly carrying sticks and vegetation to add to the nest.

Grebes nests are particularly interesting because the diving birds rarely come to land, instead preferring to build a floating nest for their eggs and then carry their young around on their backs when they hatch.

The first of these pictures shows a Great Crested Grebe nesting on the edge of the trees on “Grebe Bay”, while the second shot shows another Grebe nesting only a few feet behind it further into the trees.

This area of Salhouse Broad is full of plenty of other birds too. Most notably the picture below shows a Common Tern nesting on the branches – one of the first of these agile little birds to have returned for the summer after its long migration from Africa.

A great highlight of heading out on the water at this time of year is seeing the dozens of adorable goslings and ducklings.

This picture shows the Canada Goose family that we featured a few weeks ago on the blog nesting on Wroxham Island.  Having hatched their gosling on the island they moved them to a riverside garden for a week and are now taking them on their first swimming lessons at the bottom end of Wroxham village.

A primary reason that Greylags are the most common geese on the Broads is because they take such good care of their young. Sadly, ducklings are not usually cared for as well by their mothers but this mallard seems to be doing a good job of it.

Our skippers Richard and Tobi have reported seeing a swan carrying newly hatched cygnets on her back in Wroxham village. A wonderful sight which we will keep you posted on as soon as we manage to take a picture of it.

Finally, we suspect that a Kestrel is nesting near Wroxham Island, where we have seen it displaying its trademark fast wing beat hover a lot lately.   We will leave you with this picture, capturing the moment the Kestrel rested on a tree after being mobbed by gulls.

Pictures and words –  Oliver Franzen

With so much to see on the river at the moment why not join us for a “Grebes nest safari” on our regular boat trips or hire a dayboat and explore on your own.  Tel: 01603 782 207.

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.

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.

Here is the lovely family on a nearby riverside garden.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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!

A Great Crested Grebe pair are nesting on the river, near Woodbastwick, and are incubating their eggs as shown below.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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!

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.