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From seal spotting to falcons - all in a day out on the Belle




Boarding the Boston Belle. (2322313)
Boarding the Boston Belle. (2322313)

I love nothing more than being out in nature, but I’ve never considered myself much of a birdwatcher - or ‘twitcher’ as they are affectionately called.

Earlier this year I took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch but by the time I had got out the binoculars and tried to identify a bird, it had flown away.

So I didn’t hold out much faith in my abilities when I joined the RSPB’s first birdwatching cruise of the season aboard the Boston Belle.

I needed have worried as on board were three expert ‘spotters’ - Anthony Bentley, Jeremy Eyeons and Simon Rumery, with the team led by Norman Adcock.

“Moorhen at two o’clock,” they announced over the tannoy. “Kestrel perched on a wire at nine o’clock,” “Whimbrel flying at five o’clock.”

It meant I could lift my binoculars to my eyes, know where to look and what I was looking at. I learnt quite a few names for different birds on the trip.

A highlight for many was seeing a peregrine falcon atop the Boston Stump - and a highlight, I believe for all, was seeing a colony of seals lolling about on an exposed mud bank as we cruised out into The Wash.

Seeing the seals on the mudflats was one of the highlights of the trip. Photo: TIM WILSON (2322311)
Seeing the seals on the mudflats was one of the highlights of the trip. Photo: TIM WILSON (2322311)
“Moorhen at two o’clock,” they announced over the tannoy. “Kestrel perched on a wire at nine o’clock,” “Whimbrel flying at five o’clock.”

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time people will always see seals,” Norman said.

“We always slow down as we go past them so they do not get frightened. Sometimes they swim alongside the boat.”

The cruise is not all about birdwatching. Many passengers had simply joined the cruise for the ride and the scenery. It sets off from outside the Lock Keeper’s Office on Witham Bank East in Boston.

It then makes its way through the lock at Sluice Bridge, which is really something to experience, before travelling down river to the mouth of the Witham and out onto The Wash.

The journey continues along the River Welland with views over the saltmarsh, bordering the RSPB Frampton Marsh reserve, before returning to Boston.

In all, the cruise lasts about four and a half to five hours.

It is run by volunteers from the RSPB South Lincs Local Group.

Watching birds in flight from the boat. (SG110518-154TW) (2054895)
Watching birds in flight from the boat. (SG110518-154TW) (2054895)

Retired sales director Norman (71), from Holbeach, said: “I came into birdwatching 10-15 years ago. I love it because when I was working my job had a lot of pressure. I would come out here and feel totally relaxed.”

He also volunteers for the RSPB at Frampton Marsh.

One of his most unusual experiences on the cruise was last year.

He said: “It was Anthony who spotted two puffins flying alongside the boat and behind were two kittiwakes literally flying side by side.

“They have never been seen here before. They had perhaps been blown off course.

“Everybody got up and came round to look for them. That was one of the most exciting things.

“To see puffins is really unusual and to see kittiwakes is very unusual.”

“I came into birdwatching 10-15 years ago. I love it because when I was working my job had a lot of pressure. I would come out here and feel totally relaxed.”

Anthony (25), from Kirton, is a pro when it comes to spotting.

“I started out when I was eight years old,” he said. “I was in Dorset and saw an osprey dive down into the harbour, take a fish and eat it.

“That got me hooked. I got into it then just by looking at birds and referring back to a book. There were birds that I might not recognise and I would look them up.”

I can see how birdwatching can get quite addictive. Managing to focus on a bird as the spotters called it out and recognising the species did give me a bit of a buzz!

If you do forget your binoculars, the team have a few on board that people can borrow.

This is the third trip for fans Alan and Paula Topliss. (2322304)
This is the third trip for fans Alan and Paula Topliss. (2322304)

Alan Topliss, formerly from Moulton Chapel, was on board with his wife Paula.

He said: “This is our third time on this trip and we’re going again in August with Paula’s sister.

“I am a keeper enthusiast; I’m not a twitcher but I like to look at the birds.

“I have been round here all my life and there is stuff I did not know.”

L-R: Passengers Sue Paine and Carole Charlton, joined by Maureen Sinclair-Currie who was travelling in memory of her husband Philip. (2322306)
L-R: Passengers Sue Paine and Carole Charlton, joined by Maureen Sinclair-Currie who was travelling in memory of her husband Philip. (2322306)

Maureen Sinclair-Currie from Tydd St Mary was on board with the U3A group from Long Sutton and Sutton Bridge and was doing the trip in memory of her husband Philip.

She said: “I used to live in Boston and it was on our bucket list but we did not get to do it. This is a memoriam trip for him.”

Roger and Sue Lancaster had joined the trip from West Walton, near Kings Lynn.

“We are just really starting out and are new twitchers. It is a lovely day and it was lovely to see the seals.”

L-R: The RSPB's Norman Adcock, Simon Rumery, Anthony Bentley, Jeremy Eyeons. (2322315)
L-R: The RSPB's Norman Adcock, Simon Rumery, Anthony Bentley, Jeremy Eyeons. (2322315)

The next dates for the cruises are: May 22 (10am); June 6 (9.30am); June 20 (9.30am); July 5 (9am); July 19 (9.05am); August 4 (9am); August 20 (11.50am); September 3 (9.30am); September 19 (12.45pm); October 2 (9.15am); October 16 (9.15am).

If you are an RSPB member tickets cost £18.50 for adults and £10 for children (under 16).

For non-members tickets cost £21 for adults and £11 for children.

Tickets can be booked from the South Holland Centre in Spalding on 01775 764777 or www.southhollandcentre.co.uk

For general enquiries (non-booking) call 07531 495521.

Flying high: Nature in motion. (2322297)
Flying high: Nature in motion. (2322297)


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