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)!

two grebes swimming towards a tree lined bank

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.

two grebes one sitting on a nest the other one is one the water with twigs in its mouth swimming towards 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.

grebe sitting on a nest

grebe sitting on a nest below a tree branch

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.

common tern standing on a branch partially submerged in water

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 Greylag 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.

two greylag geese on the water flanking 9 goslings

two greylag geese standing on river bank with 5 goslings

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.

mallard duck in water with 4 ducklings

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.

kestrel standing on top of a stark branch

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.

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.

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.

First day of spring signals wildlife spectacle

Today is the first day of meteorological spring and wildlife is bursting into life right on cue.

Male swans are getting really territorial, puffing up their feathers and seeing off the competition.

swan on the water

One pair of swans have even been spotted trying out the nesting spot shown below in a secluded area of Wroxham Broad, although this seems to have been abandoned.

two swans nesting on river in cluster of reeds

Wroxham Island, a narrow strip of land that splits Wroxham Broad with the river Bure, is now a cacophony of activity with Canada and Greylag geese noisily squabbling and jostling for the best nesting positions. The island is a much coveted nesting spot for geese as it affords good protection from predators such as foxes.

two canada geese on water underneath bank overgrowth

two canada geese standing on reed back

two canada geese on water one reaching over to the other with its mouth open

Currently the Canada geese seem to be the most aggressive at staking their claim on the island and are certainly getting the best of the Greylag geese, which are still moving in large numbers as shown landing on Wroxham Broad below.

multiple greylag geese flying above water

Another interesting phenomenon is some of the Cormorants (which crowd onto the imposing trees on Wroxham Island) developing white patches in their plumage.  The birds with white patches are the mature birds that are ready to breed in the spring.

two comorants perched on a bare branch

A little further down river, on Salhouse Broad, Great Crested Grebes are continuing their delightful courtship routine.

great crested grebe on water swimming away from camera

Great Crested Grebes very rarely come to land because they have their feet on the back of their body, making it difficult for them to stand, which is why they build floating nests for their eggs.

However rules, as they say, are ment to be broken and we recently spotted a Great Crested Grebe climbing on to the bank – a very unusual and slightly ungainly sight as you can see in this picture!

two great crested grebes on on river bank and one on water

Another notable point on Salhouse Broad is that there are unusually high numbers of Pochard ducks as you can see below.

multiple pochard ducks on the water

The Pochards are mixed in with other winter species, such as Tufted Ducks and Gadwalls, which are still remaining on the broad for now.

pochard tufted and gadwall ducks swimming together on water towards bank

5 tufted ducks swimming together on water away from camera

On a final note we had to rescue a swan yesterday, which became dangerously tangled in fishing tackle.  The vets took it away and thankfully it is recovering well in the care of the RSPCA.

Words and images by Oliver Franzen