World of Nature column by Tony Brown
THE broads of Norfolk and Suffolk are indeed an attraction to the boating fraternity and anglers alike. The rivers linking the broads are regularly used by those seeking to spend a week or two holidaying in pleasant surroundings and enjoying the freedom that comes from being afloat and away from town or city life.
One can easily understand how the peace and solitude of such a break can be such a transformation from the hustle and bustle of a normal working life. But our broadland waterways have much more to offer than the part time sailors who stay within the confines of the river banks may experience. Beyond the reed fringed banks lies a wealth of nature and wildlife.
The marshes that surround the broads and rivers are rich in the flora and fauna not often noticed by those that spend their time trying to steer a straight course. Occasionally a marsh harrier will be spotted flying across the marsh now and then dropping down out of sight as it seeks to seize its prey.
They are magnificent birds of prey and when seen at fairly close quarters, are seen to be beautiful creatures. Not too long ago they were very scarce creatures but are slowly increasing in number these days. Barn owls may also be observed over the marsh fields as they too seek a meal from the ground below in the shape of some small mammal such as a vole or shrew.
On occasions I have moored the boat in a small reedy nook and just sat watching some of the wildlife. When one sits quietly and still it is surprising how close some of the creatures of the wild will come when they sense no danger. In this way I have been able to photograph many dragonflies and damselflies and other members of the insect tribes.
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The beautiful little bearded tits will sometimes allow a close approach and present the observer the opportunity to take photographs of them that will serve as a pleasant reminder in the years to come. Bitterns and water rails, creatures of the reedbeds and occasionally snipe may also be encountered when all seems peaceful.
The old adage ‘patience is a virtue’ applies aptly when watching and photographing wildlife. The beautiful swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on specific plants only found in broadland and apart from occasional sightings as odd ones may be seen crossing from one side of the river to the other, they are generally confined to the more marshy areas.
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There are moths that lay their eggs in the stems of reeds and others whose caterpillars use reed stems on which to pupate. There are birds that build their nests among the reeds and rear their chicks as the pleasure boats sail by oblivious as to their presence. Some of the wild flowers found in the more marshy areas are also unnoticed by the holiday sailors.
Those of us who have seen and explored the more wild side of the river banks have come to appreciate them and value them and feel a certain pride that they are ours to explore and enjoy. It is a pity that more of those who spend their holidays afloat on our waters aren’t able to appreciate all that lies just beyond the reeds, but then such places would lose some of the charm that we are able to appreciate.
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