RSPB Leeds Local Group trip to RSPB Frampton Marsh on 20th January 2024

Our first coach outing of the year was in good weather yet again, with high level, light cloud cover accompanied by a cold breeze whenever we were exposed to the elements, but at least the forecast showers did not materialise during the afternoon.

We welcomed Noelle and Annabel on their first coach outing with us as 42 hardy souls gathered on the coach for our early departure. Two others joined us at the visitors’ centre when we arrived at 10am.

Target birds for the day would include various raptors, especially hen harrier and short eared owl, as well as over wintering wildfowl, and some reported shore larks.

Our morning walk took us around the Reedbed Trail via the 360 hide and Reedbed hide. This was quiet at first but then ruff, black-tailed godwits, whooper swans and dunlin soon made their presence felt. The adjacent farmland soon gave us views of another huge flock of Brent geese, and another of linnet. Whilst checking the latter, a small group of different birds was noticed perched nearby. These were quickly determined to be corn bunting, which sat long enough for all of those present in the group to get good views before we headed back to the visitors’ centre for lunch.

The first part of our afternoon walk took us around the Grassland trail. The reported jack snipe and merlin did not show here but we did get views of peregrine, golden plover and little egret to name but a few! As we made our way along the sea wall some marsh harriers began to appear over the salt marsh, together with redshank, curlew and some large flocks of dunlin. At this point a magnificent male hen harrier cruised past us in close proximity for a few minutes. Definitely a highlight of the day for many of those lucky enough to witness it.

Some of us continued along the sea wall part of the Wash trail next, mainly in the hope of catching sight of the shore larks that had been present earlier in the week, but it was not to be on this occasion unfortunately.

Some members of the coach party had walked independently along the banks of the River Witham towards the Wash. Here they found turnstone, sanderling and a spoonbill as well as other species not seen on the main reserve.

It was then back to the visitors’ centre for final refreshments and to say thank you and farewell to the very accommodating staff and volunteers. Just as we gathered our belongings together, several of the group were watching through the cafe windows as the merlin finally made an appearance by putting a huge number of birds on the lagoon to flight.

We departed at 4:30pm with some of us scanning the farmland for overflying owls as the sun was setting, but with no luck on this occasion.

Our combined tally for the visit amounted to 75 species of birds, which was five more than our last coach trip here in November 2022.

Thanks to Russell, our driver for the day, and heartfelt thanks to Pauline for once again for organising such a wonderful day’s birding for the group.

Geoff and Maggie Craigs.

(Photos are by Geoff Craigs unless captioned otherwise.)