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.

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

Fishing season opens with great pike catches

Hundreds of expectant fisherman headed out onto the Norfolk Broads on June 16 as the fishing season opened after the annual three month break to protect fish stocks. Boasting over 300sqKm of rivers and lakes the Broads has some of the finest coarse fishing in the UK and is already producing some great catches.

Although the Broads boasts most types of coarse fish, including enormous shoals of dustbin lid sized Bronze Bream, it is legendary for catching one type of fish above any other – the fearsome Pike. The freshwater predator grows to huge sizes in our extensive network of waterways – with a record fish of 42 lb 80z being caught close to boatyards on Hickling Broad in March 2010.

 

It’s not just the size of our pike that makes them special. They even look slightly different to Pike elsewhere in the country, with larger, broader heads and deeper, powerful bodies, giving the angler a terrific fight when they hook one.

There have already been lots of Jack Pike, the smaller, male fish which usually grow to about 12lbs – caught by lure fishing around lily beds on the river close to Wroxham. The technique, which is most popular in the warmer months, involves casting and retrieving a lure to imitate a dying fish so that the pike attacks it expecting a free lunch. Perhaps the most exciting technique of all is surface lure fishing. This involves retrieving an imitation of a frog or duckling, a spinnerbait or popper along the surface to cause the pike to surge out of the water and attack it. When the pike dramatically strikes it really can make you jump and they often even tail walk vertically out of the water once hooked!

Here is a picture of a small Jack pike caught on a rubber lure, which imitates a dying fish:

man wearing hat and sunglasses in a boat is holding a pike up to the camera

If you want to try pike fishing on the Broads always seek advice first or better still go with an experienced Pike fisherman. It is essential to use a wire trace so the Pike doesn’t bite through your line, that you bring special gloves and forceps for unhooking the fish safely and that you have a large landing net and unhooking mat.

two men in a motor boat are fishing over the sides

Why not book a Broads Tours day boat and try fishing on the Broads for yourself?

Butterflies and Bitterns

One of our most spectacular insects – The Swallowtail Butterfly – has been spotted on Hoveton Great Broad by skipper Tobi while he ran a Discovery School Trip for children to learn about the Broads and its ecology.

With a wing span of up to 93mm and a distinctive forked tail that lends it its name, the Swallowtail Butterfly is not only Britain’s largest butterfly it is also one of the rarest since it can only be found on Broadland reed beds. This is because Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will only eat a plant called Milk Parsley, which can only grow in the particular micro climate found in our reed beds.

swallowtail butterfly with wings spread on yellow flower

We pass Hoveton Great Broad on all of our boat trips but it is almost hidden from the river by trees and has been cut off from navigation for more than 100 years. The wildlife sanctuary has a real wilderness feel as it can only be visited by boat – simply hire one of our day boats by the hour and take a short trip down stream to the Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail moorings. From there you can follow a narrow boardwalk made of railway sleepers through magical reedbeds, where the Swallowtail butterfly can be spotted, passing Carr Woodland to eventually reach two bird hides on the Broad. This has specially designed floating nesting platforms for Common Terns, which migrate all the way from Africa to nest on them.

bittern sitting on a bouybittern flying over reeds on river bank

Another magical moment came for another of our Skippers Oli, who heard the mystical sound of Bitterns booming in reed beds at the nearby Hickling Broad recently. These rare and illusive species which were once threatened by extinction, but are slowly recovering in numbers, make an eerie booming sound similar to blowing over a bottle top.

Along the river banks we are seeing pink flashes of colour from Dog Roses, which are great for bees. These insects need all the help they can get these days.

dog roses

Another fantastic sight is both white and yellow water lilies lining our banks. Aside from looking beautiful this is particularly important because lilies are an indicator species of water quality.

white water lilliesyellow water lillies

Yellow water lilies can only live in clean water and white water lilies need exceptionally good water quality. The fact that we have both types in abundance shows just how clean our waterways are. A great sign for all types of Broadland wildlife!

Words and pictures by skipper 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

Babies hitch a ride

As spring marches on, the river is a hub of activity with birds bringing up their broods. Capturing everything on camera ourselves can be a real challenge – especially now the river is busier and we have much thicker bankside vegetation for wildlife to get a little photo in. Fortunately we have lots of guests on our boat trips armed with cameras and smartphones, who send us some cracking shots.

Here we have a couple of lovely photographs from one of our school tips on board the Discoverer for an educational outing to Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail. Congratulations to primary school students Ellie and Poppy, who caught a young swan family on camera where the cygnets had bundled onto mum’s back for a bit of protection.

swan with two cygnets on back Credit Ellie

swan on water with two cygnet riding on back Credit Poppy

On the stretch of the River Bure covered by our one-and-a-half and two hour trips we now have three swan families with six or seven cygnets each.

two swans on water one with 5 cygnets behind and one with one cygnet behind facing the camera

It’s not just the swans that look after their young by offering them a ride on their backs, look out for the Great Crested Grebes who also give their young a piggyback. Salhouse Broad is a real hotspot for Great Crested Grebes. At least one brood of Great Crested Grebes have already hatched and we have seen them riding on their mother’s back as shown by these lovely pictures taken by Tobi and Oliver. We are also keenly awaiting a second nesting pair that has been hidden away in the undergrowth.

great crested grebe on the water with two grebelets swimming behindgreat crested grebe with grebelets on back on the watergreat crested grebe with grebelets riding on its back

A water bird that builds floating nests for its young in the same way as the Great Crested Grebe – the Coot – has just hatched its young on Salhouse Broad. This is really good news as Coots, which were once extremely common on the Broads, seem to be very few and far between these days, perhaps due to the harsh winter of 2010. Hopefully we will have some pictures of the newly hatched coots soon!

Of course there are plenty of Greylag, Canada and Egyptian geese with their goslings to see too. These are mostly found in the gardens of Wroxham and Hoveton where there is plenty of grass to graze upon.

two greylag geese with 5 goslings swimming between them in a linetwo greylag geese with 3 grebelets swimming between them side by side

Remember, we would love to see your wildlife photos, so send them in with your name and they may feature on one of our nature blogs or on social media. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct.