Unsurprisingly, I have seen very few friends since the end of March so it was nice to be invited out by Pat Hart yesterday for a magical mystery tour day out. Pat knew that I had never been to RSPB Frampton Marshes before and so with a lunchtime high tide we headed north, suitably masked up in his car.
It did not seem to take too long to get there, especially with the new shiny A14 open for business but I suspect that it was all the gassing we did on the journey that made it pass quickly with slight pauses to note Buzzards and Red Kites en route.
Like many RSPB reserves there is still a limited offer available but the paths were all open and we were happy to wander. The very first lagoon put an instant smile on my face with a conglomeration of white ovoid bodies and long black legs and I was only thinking on Tuesday that it could be first year since 1986 without a Spoonbill.
I needn’t have worried as 17 were doing what Spoonies do best although a couple did wake up and have a stretch. They seemed to be a mixture of adults and immatures and I was having trouble working out if any were actual juveniles.
|Spoonbills - the Little Egret behind was colour ringed left yellow right white|
Flights of Black-tailed Godwits whiffled in and were a constant feature of the circuit that allowed us to find a god selection of waders o the numerous pools of differing habitats and depths. I was very impressed with the whole set up and it is no wonder that this reserve is the wader hotspot now on the east coast by some margin.
Seven Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank, Common Redshanks, four Little Ringed Plovers, 13 Ringed Plovers, 19 Dunlin, two Common Sandpipers, two dapper Knot and 13 Ruff were found along with still breeding Avocets and Oystercatchers and a few scattered Lapwings.
|Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin|
I counted at least five Gadwall broods and three of Tufted Duck and a few Wigeon were scattered about. Black-necked Grebes have bred successfully and I briefly saw an adult feeding a chick before they went into the grasses only for a Little Grebe and chick to appear. I was confused until someone told us later that we were looking in exactly the right spot.
|Greylag in the Knapweed and Ragwort|
|St Botolph's Church, Boston|
It was meant to be a glorious day but the cloud cover was keeping the sun at bay for the most part and the brisk westerly was actually quite cool especially when we were up on the exposed sea wall. From up he we could get a better view across the myriad of pools and added three more Spoonbills to the tally while a single Brent Goose was on the salt marsh behind.
|Dark-bellied Brent Goose|
For some reason I assumed that the reserve butted up against the Wash but there was literally mile after mile of Sea lavender covered Saltmarsh as far as you could see. The Wash itself was a shimmery line in the far distance with the pines of Sandringham and Wolferton forming a dark horizon seventeen miles away.
The sheltered seaward side if the wall was alive with Common Blues, Gatekeepers, Small Heath and Meadow Browns along with Field and Meadow Grasshoppers.
|Common Blue with underwing spots showing through|
We collected our lunch from the car and headed back to the seawall bench to wait for the 2pm wader extravaganza but it never happened. I suspect that the high tide was not big enough and the wind was blowing straight out across the salt marsh so I think everything headed for the Snettisham side of the Wash which was a pity and in fact we could see the swirling clouds of waders way off in the distance for minor compensation!
|You can't really see the bird smoke in the original|
|but now you can!|
But it was a nice, if blowy, spot for lunch (if you held on to your sani and coffee mug!) and the Common Terns put on a great display just in front with Marsh Harriers quartering the distant pools and Yellow Wagtails, Linnets and Skylarks foraging out around the edges.
We decided to head south and made our way to another place I had never visited; the Long Drove of the Nene Washes. I know that it was too late in the season for the breeding waders and other local specialities but it really was very, very quiet.
The ditches were full of great plants though and I had fun showing Pat a wide variety of species, most of which we get at Rainham and that I had not encountered this year.
|Frogbit - a non Rainham species!|
|Great Water Dock|
|Water Mint and Water Forget-me-not|
|Grey Club-rush - Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani|
The pale yellow form of Common Comfrey was also seen along with Lesser and Greater Reedmace and a tiny low growing plant that I later identified as Common Knotgrass.
Field, Meadow and my first Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers of the year were pushed from the grass along with Long-winged Coneheads and Roesel’s Bush Crickets. Brown and Migrant Hawkers patrolled and there were quite a few fresh Small Tortoiseshells which were my first for some weeks.
|Roesel’s Bush Cricket|
Birds mainly came in the form of Woodpigeons, Mute Swans, Grey Herons, Carrion Crows and Meadow Pipits although Marsh Harriers were constantly quartering. However, there was ornithological recompense in the form of a Cattle Egret that got up off a pool and flew leisurely past us.
|Mute Swan keeping an eye on us and his brood|
|adult female Marsh Harrier|
It was just nice to be out somewhere different and I vowed to come back in May next year for an evening visit.
|A lichen encrusted old railway sleeper gatepost. Happy for any id suggestions!|
Even the traffic was kind on the way home.