Norfolk birdwatching - find holiday accommodation near nature reserves
Staying in self-catering accommodation near the notable Norfolk Nature Reserves means you can get to the hides and viewing areas early in the morning, and leave as the dusk gathers.
Norfolk is an Internationally important birdwatching area
Norfolk boasts some of the most captivating birdwatching spots in Britain. Whether encountering swarms of waders depart from the estuary mudflats or copses permeated by the rich textures of the Cetti warbler or drumming woodpecker, its varied birdlife promises to impress. The county offers fabulously diverse landscapes and open waters to cater to the most seasoned birdwatcher’s preference. Every year birdlovers flock to sites, hides and vantage points across the region, from its famous wetlands to farm fields, ancient woodland, seashores and saline lagoons.
Those who stay in the Norfolk in the winter at Cley Marshes are no doubt blessed by V-shaped skeins of pink-footed geese who have made their way from breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland, benefitting from increased protection in winter roosts. They are truly a sight – and sound – to behold on a crisp-winter’s morning or in the atmospheric mist of a chilly evening as residents cosy up in their homes and cottages (where some goose calls have been known to travel down the chimneys!). Winter visitors also include Great Grey Shrike, on their way south to the Mediterranean and likely to be found in the heathlands and the ancient Brecks, whose subtle grey markings have an appropriately wintry feel to herald endings and new beginnings.
Unique to Norfolk
Norfolk is host to its own unique bird species. These include the yellow-eyed, nocturnal Stone Curlew, also known locally as Norfolk Plover, Thick Knee and the Wailing Heath Chicken, because of its eponymous ‘klurr-lee’ wail. Those staying at holiday accommodation at Hickling Broad and feeling lucky can seek out the resident but highly elusive Bittern, or ‘butterbump’. Its elegant, heron-like profile can be identified among the reedbeds, though its beautiful camouflaging plumage, reflecting the marsh and reeds, provides an additional challenge! While at Hickling another Norfolk specialty, the enchanting Swallowtail butterfly, may drop by to feed on thistles and Ragged-Robin.
Separated from Lincolnshire by the Grade I Nature Conservation site The Wash, bordering the North Sea and placed in geographic dialogue with Scandinavia, the rural county of Norfolk welcomes numerous rare migrant visitors via the coast. Spring is a busy time as the winter waders and the wildfowl depart, and incomers arrive from Africa via a warm southerly wind. These include the tree-flitting Chiffchaff, darting Swallow and ground-dwelling Northern Wheatear. Other visitors begin to trickle in over the coming weeks, aided by weather conditions, like the white-spotted Bluethroat with its striking bib of chest smeared below with a strip of Robin-red, which thankfully – if spotted – are likely to be males and keen to show off. A plethora of characterful visitors have been spotted over spring, including the Laughing Gull, Calandra Lark, Siberian Stonechat, Temminck’s Stint, Collared Pratincole, and even a Hoopoe, distinctive for their striking spotted crowns. The summer months of June and July offer an ideal time to seek out the ground-nesting Quail, thought to be known better by the sound of their ‘wet-my-lips’ or ‘whip-a-whip’ call than by sightings, though lucky Norfolk birders have proved otherwise!
The region also has a particularly strong record of the remarkable Pallas’s Warbler, or ‘Seven-striped Sprite’, come October, whose intelligent movements and finely textured coat make for a magical gift if seen. Those holidaying near RSPB Snettisham or Titchwell will be keen to spot the local avocet in summer, its fine and stylishly curved beak will be familiar as the emblem of the RSPB. Titchwell visitors can enjoy RSPB’s most popular reserve on their doorstep, offering guided birdwatching, workshops and pond-dipping for kids.
Autumn will see the second round of the Firecrest after first arriving in spring, whose handsome head is made up of white supercilium and a golden marking like a spear of wheat.