Helen and I visited Frampton Marsh today – almost two years to the day since our first visit there back in December 2014. Our outstanding memory of that occasion was the sight of thousands upon thousands of Brent Geese flying in directly over our heads, from the Wash and onto the reserve. The sight was reminiscent of old Pathe newsreels of ‘thousand bomber raids’ from the Second World War. On our way down in the car we couldn’t help but speculate on whether we’d witness a repeat performance today; with a clear blue sky and lots of sunshine around it was definitely a distinct possibility.
Our first port of call on arrival was the Visitors’Center. It’s always good to check the latest sightings information and to discover where the current birding ‘hotspots’ are on any reserve.
Having checked the board and seen where the ‘good stuff’ had recently been seen, we elected to go straight down the main path in the direction of the seawall which overlooks the saltmarsh. Most of our best bird photographs from Frampton have been taken down that end of the reserve in any case.
As we walked down the path we saw that there were waterfowl absolutely everywhere on the reserve today; Wigeon and Teal easily numbered in the thousands. There were probably as many Brent Geese either flying in small flocks overhead or browsing on the grasslands. Huge numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover were also showing well in the Wintery sunshine. Waders were few and far between, today, however; a few Redshank and one lone Ruff were the only waders we saw.
Down at the Seawall, overlooking the Saltmarsh and out towards the Wash, it was only Brent Geese that were evident today. A number of Hen and Marsh Harriers had been reported here recently, but there were no signs of such exotics today.
Next we walked back up the main path in the direction of the 360° Hide. As we walked back up the path we noticed three drake Pintail feeding on one of the ponds near the path. I really love the Pintail as it’s such an attractive bird, and not that common really. I was also very fortunate to grab a couple of frames of a cheeky Wren darting between clumps of reeds on the way up the path.
The sun was low towards the West by the time we got to the 360° Hide, so most of our sightings were looking mainly Eastwards. Again, large numbers of wildfowl dominated the view. However, and this was my highlight of the day, a beautiful (lone) Ruff was grazing on the grass just in front of the hide, and very close in to us. It seemed totally unconcerned about the group of humans oggling it and pointing huge camera lenses in its direction as it browsed the grass, illuminated by beautiful sunshine. Helen and I took a good many shots of this gorgeous bird over the next ten-fifteen minutes.(I was very pleased with my results when I saw them at home later-on).
We looked in at the Reedbed Hide next. We’d spotted a Goldeneye here on the way down the path from the Visitors’ Center and we’d seen on the noticeboard that a first-Winter Scaup had been sighted here earlier in the day. Sadly, however, there was no sign of either bird whilst we were in attendance.
Not to be daunted, we next decided to walk right around the Reedbed Trail. On a previous visit we took some photos of a lovely Corn Bunting here and I’d noted in the Visitors’ Center that a number of Bearded Tits had been reported here lately. Mostly it was their ‘pinging’ that had been heard rather than them being sighted, but you never know…
As we walked along the Reedbed Trail we noticed a large flock of Golden Plover sitting in a field adjacent to the reserve. Also, a Stonechat was flitting about and gave us some really good views; (Stonechats are very prone to sitting atop bushes rather than hiding halfway down in the denser foliage!). No Bearded Tits were heard, let alone seen, but towards the end of the trail, and as were approaching the Visitors’ Centre again, I sighted a Fieldfare at the top of a nearby bush. I wasn’t able to get any good shots of it, but as this was only my second-ever FieldFare sighting, I was very pleased.
As we returned to the car after a well-earned cup of hot chocolate, I took some photos of a Kestrel hovering near the car park; a nice bird to finish on, I thought!
So, no ‘thousand bomber’ Brent Geese flyovers, and no Bearded Tits, but all-in-all we were very pleased with our haul of birds for the day. The Fieldfare, Stonechat, Pintails and Goldeneye were all special-enough to make us feel that we’d had a very succesful day’s birding! The total number of species I recorded on the day was 35.