Trip reports

RSPB Frampton Marsh

RSPB Frampton Marsh
Mike Nott

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Spring had certainly sprung as we gathered in bright sunlight at Two Waters at 7.00am for our 125 mile journey to Lincolnshire. The blue tits were active in the trees besides the river Gade.

After a trouble free hour and three quarters journey we stopped at Morrisons in Stamford, where there was much banter about the "grey harrier" and "black kites" we had seen in the fields on the way! After an excellent breakfast, we arrived at Frampton Marsh at 10.15 am, in the sunshine.

We had seen 3 red kites, one possibly from the Chiltern project and a pair near Peterborough from the Northampton reintroduction. The crow family was well represented with rooks wheeling in the wind above twenty or more rookeries in the roadside trees. Alongside them large flocks of jackdaws, some carrion crows and magpies foraged on the rich soil of the recently ploughed and harrowed fields.

By the time we reached the reserve we had also seen 2 buzzards, a flock of 30 starling, pheasant and near Stamford a flock of over 30 golden plover flew over in C formation. In the dykes and rivers we had caught sight of tufted duck, many black headed gulls and some common gulls.

At Frampton Marsh, on the feeders, just outside the small information centre greenfinch, chaffinch and a lovely yellowhammer greeted us. We looked out over a big expanse of freshwater through its large windows. The many scrapes and islands were populated by many different species. Two little egret flew in above the scattered coot, tufted duck, gadwall, dunlin and a small group of 44 whooper swans. The bright sunlight picked out the intense colours of male teal, lapwing, 50+ wigeon, shoveler and several gorgeous shelduck.

Three ruff were identified by their 'scaly' looking upperparts. Each feather had pronounced white edges and they each had different coloured legs; one bright yellow, one dull pink and another pale green. Black-tailed godwit were confidingly close on the edges of the flood and gave the writer no excuse for miss identification compared to bar- tailed which were not seen during the visit.

We left the centre along the Wash Trail and walked eastward toward the sea wall. To our right just 20 yards away a tightly packed flock of about 80 brent geese foraged in the grassland. A reed bunting perched on a shrub and skylark sang overhead and a pair of immaculate greylag geese fed at the edge of a small pond. To our left an immature cormorant with a brown chest flew in and settled next to 2 mute swans.

Further along the path, with the scrapes to our left, we were privileged to have close up views of black tailed godwit and ruff, as they fed in the shallows along the water's edge. The photographers among us were particularly delighted as the temporary higher water levels in the lagoons meant that the birds were closer than normal. In addition the foam whipped up by the wind had been driven into a line along the water's edge. The foam in combination with the good light gave an added dimension to the pictures.

We reached the sea wall, walked up the steps, and scoured in vain for harriers over the vast expanse of saltmarsh. The only things of interest were the masts of a yacht anchored in the hidden River Welland over mile away to the east. Then, like diamonds in the sky, dunlin flew over, flashing the whites of their underparts as they banked from left to right in the bright sunlight.

To the north, just the super structure of a small tramp steamer was visible with its hull hidden by the marsh as it eerily moved slowly upstream on the Haven towards Boston. To the west in the flooded meadows, just below us, we saw mallard, an oystercatcher, six immaculate pintail and a pair of little grebe.

As we walked off the sea wall toward the East Hide we watched a couple of meadow pipits, whilst a kestrel hovered in the distance.

From inside the hide we saw about 20 golden plover and 30 plus avocet on an island, and just 10 yards away in front of the hide had good views of redshank, teal and shoveler. Initially, there was an extremely large flock of brent geese on the water in front of us, numbering many hundreds. Small groups intermittently took off, providing many photo opportunities as they flew closely past us, and then there were none!

Flocks of brent geese continued to fly seawards in small groups as we walked to the Reed Hide where black headed gulls, now resplendent with solid black caps of their breeding plumage, bickered in front of a great crested grebe.

Water was being pumped to flood the areas but the many waterbirds seemed completely unconcerned to the sound of the pumps. The floods would kill off the grass, after which the water levels would be lowered to create more suitable nesting sites free of all vegetation.

We finally reached the 360 Hide and had really great close views of skylark in the grass in front of the Hide. On the edge of the scrapes were 6 black tailed godwit, a ruff, lapwing and dunlin as wigeon, a curlew, teal and brent geese foraged in the grassy areas. Out on the water 2 female goldeneye repeatedly dived among black headed gull and more pintail. A distant marsh harrier appeared from behind the sea wall before dropping behind it only to reappear briefly. A herring gull flew over, whilst 2 canada geese came very close, peering at us in the hide.

Whilst casually having our lunches, watching the skylark and nearby wigeon, we were noisily alerted by their eruption as they suddenly took flight, apart from a lonely ruff wondering what the fuss was all about! The reason - a peregrine falcon (from the Boston Stump perhaps) flashed by at low level through the ascending flock only some 50 feet away, and then disappeared skywards to the south! If we thought that was a moment to be savoured, shortly afterwards there was even greater excitement when we suddenly spotted another peregrine close in front of us but higher than before. It came in from the south and flew north in the direction of the Boston Stump, and carried some prey in its talons! "Post observation photo interpretation", revealed a black fluffy looking prey clutched between the peregrine's claws, about the size of a starling.

On our return to the centre we had some brilliant close up views of a yellowhammer on the ground below the feeders and then as it clung to the branches of a sapling as it oscillated in the wind. Three of our group walked down the edge of the wood next to the car park and came across ringed plover, robin, great tit, wren and blackbird. Then we left the reserve for home and in the fields next to the approach road were 2 red legged partridge and a lesser black- backed gull.

Yellowhammer (SH)

The reserve map said the Marsh Trail was 2.2 miles long and had provided us with a wonderful days birding and in total the group had seen 61 species.

Many thanks to the drivers who drove to and from the reserve - we really appreciate you taking the strain.

Alan Corner and Ian Parker (photographs taken by Mike Nott who retains the copyright)


Michael Doydge, Cliff Parslow, Dave Jones, Jane Pate, Richard Cockerill, Alan Corner, Ian Parker, David Brown, Paul Brown, Stuart Harrison, Mike Nott, Jennie Anderson, Marion Osman.