Sunday, 3 June 2018

Banished to the fens

Another family camping trip over the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend saw me, again, surplus to requirements, opening up the possibility of a few days away at a destination of my choice. I have not seen Swallowtail butterflies in some time or photographed them since investing in some decent camera gear, so heading for the Broads and Fens of Norfolk seemed like an attractive option.
Avocet, Frampton Marsh
The reserve holds a healthy breeding population
Avocet feeding on the muddy scrapes
Not too difficult to photograph in flight due to its highly contrasting plumage making it easier for autofocus to lock on

Checking the forecast before departure, my first morning away didn't look like great butterfly weather so I started my road trip with an early start at Frampton Marsh, over the border and the from Norfolk in the Lincolnshire section of the Wash. A group of Ruff had been lekking on the reserve viewable from the car park and having only seen this spectacle once before the opportunity to do so again was not to be missed.
 A few Avocet chicks had hatched at Frampton Marsh
Lapwing chicks were also on the reserve
The adult Lapwing was nearby
A Little Stint was another wader of note on the reserve
As a Schedule 1 breeding bird, Ruffs can't be photographed at or near the nest without a licence, but as these birds were viewable from a safe distance the RSPB has been encouraging visitors to the reserve to enjoy the spectacle. On arrival I parked near the reserve centre and walked to the old car park near the sea wall from where the lek could be viewed. Avocet chicks had recently hatched in the scrapes by the roadside and the adults were alert to danger, calling loudly and mobbing any passing traffic on the road.
Two of the three males present in the Ruff lek
The female can be seen skulking on the water's edge - looking a bit disinterested here
The male Ruff's headgear looks very Elizabethan
This male appeared to be bowing to the female
The battles between males were brief but fierce
Much has been written in natural history literature about the sexually charged nature of the Ruff lek but for an unconventional take on it, check out this Guardian article about 'Ruff Sex'. I would have borrowed 'Let's talk about leks, baby' from this piece as the title for this post but for the intellectual copyright theft it would have represented.
A distant Glossy Ibis was at Frampton Marsh
Several Little Gull were feeding over the water
Swift feeding over the neighbouring farmland
Tree Sparrows were around the nearby farm buildings
Spring was certainly in full swing at Frampton, and with so many farmland birds seemingly in trouble and numbers of migrants apparently down, it was a tonic to see Tree Sparrows and good numbers of singing Sedge Warblers alongside the breeding waders. Unfortunately I could not locate the Turtle Doves which were present on my last visit to the reserve but I was reassured that one of their favourite 'purring' trees had blown down in winter storms and that they were still in the wider area.
Sedge Warbler
An energetic singer
Sedge Warbler

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