Passengers are being treated to a wonderful display of wildlife – with otters and kingfishers being regularly spotted aboard our trip boats.
David Seaford, a passenger aboard the Queen of the Broads, took this lovely picture of an otter during his trip on 30th August and was kind enough to send it in to us for the blog. (If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trip we would love to see them e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!)
Perhaps our most amusing encounter with these lovely mammals came when a female otter popped up right underneath Skipper, Tom, in his small dingy. “I was tying up my Punt having been using it to clean the outside windows of our trip boats in our boatyard. The otter suddenly appeared from underneath the Punt and gave me quite a surprise,” Tom explained.
Shortly after this the otter made a second appearance in front of lucky passengers who were queuing up for a boat trip on the Belle of the Broads.
On another occasion skipper, Oli, and his passengers managed to get a great view of an otter on Wroxham Broad. “I was excited to see an otter just in front of my boat as I turned into the upstream entrance to Wroxham Broad. I followed it for at least 200 meters as it swam across the broad towards some houses, giving my passengers a magical encounter for several minutes. I was particularly pleased as they had braved a trip on a bit of a rainy day but the lack of other boat traffic due to the weather probably meant that the otter felt confident enough to come out in the open.”
On the same day several other otters were spotted including two playing together on the river just before skipper Tom turned his boat into our marina at the end of a trip. This area, close to our dayboat hire point, has proved a hotspot for otter activity in recent years, and James Greasley managed to take this lovely picture of an otter with a fish in its mouth their early this year.
Electric blue kingfishers have been adding a splash of colour to many trips. A family of kingfishers are raising their two youngsters on the river at the downstream entrance to Salhouse Broad. While we usually see them flashing past low to the water, on occasions the young birds have been happy to remain perched on a fallen tree branch as we quietly pass them – giving a wonderful view.
Another hotspot has been on the river between Wroxham Broad and Wroxham village where two kingfishers are regularly chasing each other. This is likely to be either parents pushing this year’s young out as autumn approaches or a territorial dispute.
We were very pleased to be sent this unusual picture of a kingfisher by George Walker, who hired a holiday cruiser from our sister company Norfolk Broads Direct.
George said: “What a marvellous site, this beautiful Kingfisher was using the front rail of our boat as a taking off and landing point to fish. We were moored up in a boatyard on Fair Commissioner when he suddenly appeared. We watched the coming and goings for several minutes, not daring to move so as not to miss out on this wonder of nature!”
Several other enigmatic birds, synonymous with the Broads, have also been spotted. Majestic marsh harriers have been gliding over the reed and sedge beds around Horning reach, while Skipper Oli was lucky enough to see a Little Egret. “The beautiful white wading bird with a long dark pointed bill and long dark legs flew out in front of my boat from the reed beds, where it had presumably been feeding on invertebrates. My passengers and I watched it fly upriver for several magical moments after it crossed in front of our bows,” Oli explained.
Our trips pass Hoveton Great Broad and the reserve’s ranger, Elaine, was really pleased to spot a Bittern there for the first time recently, flying very close to the bird hide she was in. The highly endangered bird which is related to the heron with brownish striped plumage, providing perfect camouflage as it hunts in reed beds, is one of the Broads most revered species but also one of the most rarely seen. Despite this we were also lucky enough to spot a Bittern on two separate trips this summer around Horning reach (see previous blog.)
Coots may be a rather humbler bird but are no less synonymous with our National Park having been the inspiration for Arthur Ransome’s fifth Swallows and Amazons book – Coot Club, which was set on the Broads.
We have seen growing number of these birds on Salhouse Broad, with around 14 spotted together last week. This is promising news as we have seen far fewer coots on the Broads in recent years, with their mysterious decline most likely to be associated with increasing predation from growing otter numbers.
Herons are another bird we have seen in large numbers recently and Oli managed to take this picture of one perched up a tree.
Finally, we will end the blog with this picture taken by Laura Greasley on her phone after an evening cruise. If you look closely there is a deer peering out of the hedge from a riverside Garden in Wroxham – it’s surprising what may be watching as you head down the river!
Written by Oliver Franzen