The official visitor website for Norfolk
Marsh harrier credit Noel Barke

Hickling Broad and Marshes National Nature Reserve open for long Winter weekends

The refurbished visitor centre at Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Hickling Broad and Marshes National Nature Reserve will be open for long weekends – Friday to Sunday – all through the winter for the first time, to celebrate one of Norfolk’s winter wildlife spectaculars.

The raptor roost at Hickling Broad provides excellent views of raptors as they fly in to roost. As dusk falls, hundreds of marsh harriers – a bird which remains rarer than golden eagles as a British breeding species – plus hen harriers, merlin and barn owl can be watched coming in to roost. It is also possibly the best place in Britain to view wild common cranes.

Red Kite credit Chris Mills

To mark the popularity of the Raptor Roost and longer opening times at Hickling Broad Visitor Centre, NWT’s winter wildlife survey is all about raptors. Each season, the trust asks local people and visitors to record three species on their map to help monitor wildlife across the county and gain an understanding of the distribution of a species. Sightings can help identify areas that are especially important for wildlife and identify species in decline or under threat.

Launched on November 22, NWT is asking you to turn your heads to the sky and go in search of three iconic raptor species: marsh harriers, red kites and buzzards. To submit your records visit www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/spotter or email wild@norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk. All three may be seen at Hickling, but NWT is keen for sightings everywhere in Norfolk.

Buzzard credit Elizabeth Dack

The visitor centre at Hickling Broad provides light refreshments, hot drinks (which will be welcome after a bracing dusk walk in the Broads!) a seating area, gift shop and toilets.

Every fortnight from January, NWT is running guided walks to the raptor roost, listed by Patrick Barkham in the Guardian as one of the best guided nature walks in the UK. Cost: £3 for NWT members and children, £3.50 for non-members plus nature reserve entry fee. Booking essential: 01692 598276. Starts Sunday 5 January.

Birdwatching in Norfolk

Hickling Broad visitor centre, credit Steve Cox

9 fun Raptor facts...

1. Marsh harriers were extinct in the UK by the end of the 19th century. They started to recolonise the Norfolk Broads in the 1920s and have since made a recovery.

2. They have the broadest wings of all the harrier species.

3. The winter raptor roost at Stubb Mill at NWT Hickling Broad and Marshes has recorded over 100 marsh harriers.

4. Buzzards spend a lot of the time sitting around and are often seen perched on posts or in trees and bushes.

5. The buzzard’s mating flight is called the rollercoaster as the male bird flies up into the sky and then plummets down in a spiral.

6. Buzzards make big nests out of twigs and branches. They can be up to 1m wide and 60cm deep and a pair can have two or three nests in their territory.

7. The red kite was extinct as a breeding bird in the UK, except for a small population in Wales.

8. Red kites are spreading across the country and in 2016 eight pairs of kites were reported as breeding or attempting to breed in Norfolk.

9. Red kites are mentioned 15 times in Shakespeare’s plays. They were common scavengers in London feeding on carrion and scraps and using rags to build their nests.

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