Norfolk’s coast has some of the best wildlife habitats in the country. There are the usual suspects, but then again there are some others you may not know about.
Norfolk has a wide variety of land types – chalk rivers, ancient woodland, fertile farmland, fen, broad, and breck and a coastline that is full of variety, internationally important wetlands, marshes and sandy beaches. The shallow North Sea is a powerhouse of potential feeding for visiting mammals, fish and birds all that are interconnected in the circle of life.
The Norfolk coast is also one of the major flyways for migrating birds in the spring, summer, autumn and winter. Change is the constant that provides the visitor with an opportunity to see and photograph something different every season.
Here’s our top ten…
The Gem of the North Norfolk Coast, here you can see both types of European seal, the grey and the common… but there’s more to see. Take a boat ride at high tide out into Blakeney pit and you can see a wide diversity of sea birds and animals. The seals are the stars of the show and there is always something new to see. Blakeney Point is one of the most important locations for nesting Sandwich Terns in the United Kingdom, amongst them you will find Black Headed Gulls, Little and Common Terns (pictured), Ringed Plover and Oyster catchers.
At the mouth of one the unique chalk rivers of Norfolk – behind the sea wall look out for nesting avocets. This iconic species with its turned up bill breeds here every summer – if you are really lucky you may see one of the many otters that can be found on all the rivers of Norfolk. Walk to Stiffkey village for a pint of Norfolk Wherry in the Red Lion.
In the summer the marsh is alive with nesting waders listen for the calling redshank or look into the sky for the skylark, the brown hare will have its leverets in the long vegetation on the marsh. In the winter flocks of up to 20,000 pink footed geese (pictured) can be seen at dawn and dusk along with the ever-present Brent geese. Marsh and hen harriers are regular visitors to the marsh. Look carefully and you may see the peregrine falcon.
Cley Beach and the Reserve
The pebble beach of Cley is a great platform to see the migrants arriving, stand on the beach look out to sea and you may see flocks of summer and winter migrants making their way into the reserve or using the coast as the signpost to the breeding grounds or winter home. In spring listen out for the booming bittern, whilst watching the waders.
Nar Valley Way
The Nar valley provides one of the best examples of a Norfolk chalk river – look out for wild trout catching mayflies in May and early June. Drumming snipe can be seen in the spring on the flooded meadows. Water plants and insects abound. It may not be too coastal but you will traverse some fantastic historical sights some hidden in ancient woodland.
Burnham Overy Sea Wall
In spring listen for the croaking of the natterjack toad, watch the display of the lapwing and if you are lucky the ritual passing of food between the Marsh harriers.
The magnificent landscape of the Winterton Dunes National Nature Reserve is what keeps the sea away from many villages and the Broads National Park, so is an import bulwark against coastal erosion. As well as the birdlife, this is a habitat for rabbits, adders and natterjack toads.
One of the greatest places to see the wild English partridge. And you might even see a lesser-spotted Royal!
Whilst much is written of Holkham, off the coast road and behind the beach is an area full of wildlife. Look out for deer entering the park.
Walk on this beautiful beach and consider the point at which the sea meets the land, the intertidal zone, and full of adaptive species that are constantly changing with the seasons. Walk out to meet to the sea at low tide and you’ll find yourself in an amazing immersive spot, probably on your own.