After a week of me rabbiting on, you’ll be glad to know Simon’s back tomorrow so there will be more of a variety of bloggers again! But here’s the final blog instalment of the week from the assistant warden…
Today, Graham (Warden) and I had a busy day planned, and knew from the start we’d have to prioritise as our list of jobs would never fit into one day. We decided that the most important job was to get the electric fences up, as April marks the return of the cattle.
As I was setting the posts out along the ditch between the wet grassland and scrapes on Roads Farm, I found myself thinking about doing the same job last year. – then it was pouring with rain, whereas today it was glorious sunshine! It is about the first time, I’ve been able to say that about an annual task, and definitely makes me feel part of the furniture at Frampton Marsh!
Between the putting up the two fences, we used our journey back to stop off and check a few things along the track from reedbed hide to the mound. I replaced our seasonal interpretation which you will find in the A-boards around the site. At the far side of north scrape, I spotted a little corn bunting sat in a tree singing its little heart out a lovely sound. While a single whooper swan, and several avocets made me smile as I scanned the reedbed, as I read the water level.
Meanwhile Graham jumped some fences to check on the flow in middle and south scrape, which we are currently letting water out of the reedbed onto. There was also some looking in ditches for common toads, something which is causing rather a lot of excitement for our deo! There are loads to be seen all round the site - in just one section of ditch on Marsh Farm, just a few metres long, Graham and I counted over thirty yesterday.
Working out on the reserve is a joy, with plenty to see. One picture which remains in my mind from today is a hare, looking at me then fleeing in the opposite direction. The lapwings and redshanks were calling and displaying, and skylarks could be heard singing; it is just nice to be outside and close to the natural world.
After lunch, a bit of time around the workshop and yard, before we returned to Marsh farm to check the water levels and have a look at the main sluices on the site. We are trying to get this area as wet as possible so there will be plenty of pools and ditches for the waders in breeding season. This includes identifying areas where we are losing water, as it bypasses the ditch system across low ground, and rectifying the situation where possible. This normally involves big machinery, such as a digger, but today Graham and I made a smaller effort to block part of one of the foot drains with spades, and shovels.
By now it was almost four o’clock, so we headed over to the Visitor centre to see Mel (Volunteer) and hear the news from the day before locking up. Some of the highlights of today’s sightings were:
Reedbed: Along with the sole whooper swan, 34 avocets, a female scaup, and a female goldeneye.
Scrapes: 50 shelduck, 22 avocets, and seven redpoll.
Wet grassland: A wheatear, and three pink-footed geese.
Saltmarsh: A little gull.
Mel had also enjoyed a walk out to Tabb’s Head this morning for high tide, where he had seen four common scoter and one eider in The Wash.
So please do come and enjoy a walk here at Frampton Marsh this weekend. Whether a short stroll around the reedbed, a wander along the seawall, or the ramble out to Tabb’s Head, there is plenty to see – from lapwings displaying, hares boxing to toads croaking!
Photo: Marsh Farm from the Seabank, March 2010 (Jenny Boatwright)
When will this weather end! Living in Britain, I just don’t expect so many days of bright and sunny weather in one go but we have definitely be blessed so far this week. The sun is out again, and by the time I arrived back to munch on my sandwiches I had stripped down to my t shirt!
I love it when the sun is shining, it just lifts the colours of the sky, birds, and flora on the reserve. The place looks bright and colourful. If you are out and about at Frampton Marsh, as I was this morning, look out for spots of yellow around the reedbed because the colt’s foot is now in flower! Colt’s foot is quite an unusual plant as the flowers appear in early spring before any leaves are produced.
It is an important source of nectar for bees early in the season when very few other flowering plants are available. Historically the plant was used to treat asthma and colds, and is still widely available as the medicinal sweet coltsfoot rock. So is if you can find some hiding on one of the banks or alongside one of the paths.
I made a quick stop in the Visitor centre on arriving at the reserve, and was pleased to find that we have whooper swans on the reedbed again! – about 70. These birds are brilliant, and the white of there feathers just shines in the sun. But one of the birds which seems to most excite visitors, and with their classic black and white colouring I can see why, is the avocet. On walking on round the reedbed from reedbed hide, I found a group of 16 on an island towards the rear of the reedbed, although most of them were sleeping!
I was out with my wheelbarrow, doing some odd jobs along with a bit of hide cleaning. As I approached the waters edge at one side of the reedbed, I disturbed two snipe. These are shy birds, and you don’t often see them unless you get close enough to cause them to fly.
Whilst, sweeping east hide, I took two minutes to look out the window and watch the activity on middle scrape. There were over four hundred dark-bellied brent swimming and feeding, 2 male pintails looking rather smart, fourty seven shelducks with their lovely red beaks, and two avocets, along with a few lapwing, and black-tailed godwits. It is great to be able to take a minute to appreciate what birds we do have on sight.
So there are plenty of birds to see, and the reserve looks bright and beautiful in the sunshine, so do come down to Frampton Marsh for a walk round and some bird watching.
Today started off with the compulsory cup of tea, and some searching through some harrier records for the winter for an hour, before Graham (Warden) and I hit the road.
First stop the workshop to load up all the kit we needed for the day...then the Visitor centre to check Dave (Volunteer) was Ok, and start the generator. I also ventured over to the barn owl box to change the battery, disturbing a barn owl that flew out over my head – a great sight! Enjoyed by visitors in the car park as well! We are planning to get a solar charger so we will not be disturbing the birds in this way on a regular basis.
The news of the morning, as I stopped on the arrivals board whilst in the Visitor centre was the first wheatear of the year! So the next stop of the day for Graham and I was a detour down to the double gates onto Roads Farm wet grassland to see if we could see the wheatear that had just been reported. To our pleasure it was sat on the cattle trough just inside the gates before flying onto the corral. A lovely little bird, and another sign of spring!
Photo: Wheatear (Neil Smith)
Then off we set to the pump hut, from where we pump water onto the reserve from the IDB drain before it flows into the River Witham and out into the Wash. The pump had stopped again overnight, this has been happening a lot over the last few days so we felt it was time to check that there was nothing obscuring it. This involves taking the pump head out of the water and removing and cleaning the basket which protects it before repositioning it in the middle of the ditch. It is a bit of a fiddly job but between us we completed it and left the pump running well.
Our next stop was Freiston Shore, which is just the other side of the River Witham from Frampton Marsh. We spent the rest of our day there, building a fence around in a new gateway. Its a lovely site, and worth a visit (just follow the brown tourist signs from the A52).
The sun has shone all day, and it has definitely been ‘ice cream’ weather! For those enjoying a walk and some birdwatching at Frampton Marsh, some of the birds enjoying the sunshine were the wheatear, corn buntings, avocets, twite and ruff. The little owl was visible from its nest box in the trees by the barn on Marsh Farm. There were also visits by both a peregrine and a buzzard. So whilst the reserve is bathed in sunlight and looking at its best, do come and share in the joys of Frampton Marsh.