Saturday 3 September 2016

Frampton Marsh & Football - A Day Out In Lincolnshire

Whilst every other birder worth their salt was up in the north of Lincolnshire hoping for a glimpse of a distant Western Swamphen, I decided to head to the east of the county for a day of tranquil birding and a spot of raucous non-league football. Do not fret readers, I have not turned my back on the twitching scene, I just managed to see the very same bird at Minsmere RSPB the previous month.

A sunflower plantation at Frampton Marsh RSPB.

I arrived at the impressive Frampton Marsh RSPB reserve around 9.00am and was surprised to find just a couple of cars parked up. The first stop was to the largely deserted 360 Hide where a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was feeding just a few yards away. Further out, there was a large group of around 90 Black-tailed Godwit, circa 70 Dunlin and 6 Little Stint. It was refreshing to just perch up out of the wind, relax in the comfortable surroundings and enjoy the shorebird spectacle unfold. Eventually a few more Curlew Sandpiper came into view as well as the odd Avocet too.

Curlew Sandpiper (juvenile) - Frampton Marsh.
Curlew Sandpiper (juvenile) - Photos by AS Archer.

I then made my way around to East Hide were the distinctive 'chew-it' call of a Spotted Redshank could be heard along the approach track. After a careful scan of the marsh below the sea wall I eventually picked out at least four birds consisting of two smart juveniles and two adults in their frosty winter plumage. There were also plenty of Little Egret, Lapwing, Ringed Plover and Common Redshank to scan through as well as another hundred or so Black-tailed Godwit and a reasonable flock of Eurasian Wigeon too.

Black-tailed Godwit (juvenile) - Frampton Marsh.

From the hide itself there was not a great deal of activity as most of the waders were roosting, including a single Greenshank. There was however a juvenile Little Stint performing well as it worked its way up and down, feeding on the northern side of the lagoon. A quick scan of The Wash itself from the bank produced a pair of distant Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a few more Little Egret. On the return journey a Whinchat was flushed along the access path and a number of Yellow Wagtail passed overhead.

Little Stint (juvenile) - Frampton Marsh.

Following a tip off by the RSPB staff member, Chris Andrews (brother of my all-star twitching companion Phil) I decided to search a lesser known area of the reserve opposite the visitor centre for Turtle Dove. There had been four birds present in the area  earlier in the week however I could only locate the odd Stock Dove and Collared Dove in their usual location. On the small reservoir nearby there were decent numbers of Little Grebe and a varied selection of common wildfowl including a couple of Pintail and a few Pochard. A trio of Northern Wheatear were feeding in the surrounding also farmland and both Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper were disturbed from a roadside ditch.

At this stage the heavens opened and I thought it wise to make my way back to the car. As I did so a sodden Hobby was spotted looking particularly sorry for itself as it sat hunched up in a ploughed field. After a quick change out of my soaked birding attire it was then a quick run up to Boston for the footie.

York Street, the home of Boston United.

As a lifelong Manchester United fan I became disillusioned with the whole farce that is the Premiership a while back. The lack of atmosphere at games, the ridiculously high ticket prices, the inconvenient kick off times and the continuous stream of overrated, millionaire players were all contributing factors to why I decided to get my football fix elsewhere. The Glazer takeover of United was ultimately the final straw. There was no way I was going to line the pockets of some greedy American billionaire and his family. Some United fans have said I have committed the ultimate sin and turned my back on the team I love. I always maintain however it was them that abandoned the likes of me!

I had always enjoyed watching non-league football when not following the reds and I would often support my local team Tamworth FC. In 2005 however, a bunch of frustrated Mancunians decided enough was enough and decided to form a club we could call our own. It was at this stage I became a founder member and co-owner of FC United of Manchester. Over our short history we have risen from the Second Division of the North West Counties Football League to the 'heady heights' of The Conference North, just a couple of divisions below the football league. During this time we have gone from ground sharing with the likes of Bury, Altrincham, Stalybridge Celtic and Curzon Ashton to owning a fantastic ground in Moston, North Manchester, all financed by the fans.

The FC United crowd at Boston, that's me in the top right.

A visit to the historic York Street stadium in the centre of Boston is always a treat for the non-league football enthusiast. It is like being transported back to the days of old with its steep concrete standing terraces, chips and gravy and proper floodlights in each corner. Sadly this may have been our final trip here as Boston are currently building a brand new stadium on the edge of town which should be completed in time for next season.

As for the game itself, FC United took a shock 1-0 lead in the rain only to be pegged back with penalty kick from the Pilgrims. FC United then made it 2-1 before once again Boston grabbed a well deserved equaliser to make it 2-2 before halftime.  The second half was a much tighter affair but FC United managed to hit a 69th minute winner following a mix up in the Boston defence. This was only our second win of the season with the three valuable points hopefully helping to consolidate our place in this demanding league come the end of the season.

So there you have it, a superb morning of birding followed by an entertaining 3-2 victory for my football team. What more can a chap ask for hey?

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