Friday, 8 May 2015

Signs of spring at Ranworth Broad

Jamieson Temple, Visitor Centre Coordinator at Ranworth Broad
Situated in the middle stretches of the River Bure, NWT Ranworth Broad forms part of the larger Bure Marshes National Nature Reserve. Visitors generally start at Ranworth village, with the village green looking out on Malthouse Broad; in the village there is Norfolk Wildlife Trust car park, and just off the green at the Staithe is the NWT Information Centre and ferry departure point. The next part of the journey is to visit the reserve on Ranworth Broad which is of national and international importance for wildlife, and has a very unique floating visitor centre with a beautiful thatched roof. 

Broads Wildlife Centre, photo by David Marney
Our Broads Wildlife Centre can either be accessed via a boardwalk trail leading through woodland and reedbed. The boardwalk starts along Broad Road, which is a five minute walk from the village. There is also a ferry that will take visitors to the centre, this sails four times per day from the Staithe. The centre is open from 10am-5pm; please note there are no dogs allowed and no toilets at the centre.

swallow, photo by David Marney
Ranworth Broad is home to a great variety of wildlife, over the past month the winter migrants have left, and the summer migrants have arrived. At the Centre, fascinating live camera feeds can be viewed which offer an unrivalled insight of the artificial rafts of nesting common terns, and also some of the multiple swallow nests around the Centre. Away from the screens the swallows and common terns can be seen hunting for insects and fish respectively over Ranworth Broad; along with the majestic great crested grebes.

Great crested grebes, photo by David Marney
is easy to fall in love with the great crested grebes, from the elegant physique, prominent colouring, and special mating display; this display is one of the true signs of spring! It starts with a male grebe catching the eye of a female by exaggerating its ruff; the pair then swims face on and they start mirroring each other’s alternating head movements. If the male is successful in this display, the pair swims away, dive down and appear again with mouths full of reed; they then come back together, almost vertically, to start their ‘dance’.

Other wildlife highlights at Ranworth Broad are regular sightings of otters, kingfishers and marsh harriers, along with fen orchid, marsh marigold, and yellow flag iris. Any day now we are expecting the first sightings of our famous swallowtail butterflies, with their large yellow and black wings; and the startling bright green caterpillars feeding on the milk parsley. 

Marsh harrier, photo by David Marney
Come visit NWT Ranworth Broad over the next few weeks to see these incredible species, their magnificent mating displays, and see the intimate footage of nesting swallows and common terns. A great way to see the internationally important wildlife is via the 45 minute ‘guided’ water trail; the expert boat operators on the 12 person Damselfly vessel will help identify all the wildlife, and all the history of the reserve and Broads habitat.

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