Norfolk is famous for its birdlife – we think it’s the birdwatching capital of the UK. And whatever time of year, there’s plenty to see around the coast at four major reserves.
For many birders, NWT Cley Marshes is a must. This peerless nature reserve, the oldest in the county Wildlife Trusts movement and still among the most celebrated, has such a range of habitats and attracts such a diversity of birds that it is a birder’s default choice for Norfolk’s splendid birds.
Holkham Nature Reserve is vast, with rugged coastal wetlands, saltmarsh, dunes, pinewoods and scrub, grazing marsh and foreshore. it stretches from Burnham Norton to Blakeney and covers about 3,706 hectares. It is possible to explore most of the area by following footpaths from the main car parks. The core section of the reserve, from Wells-next-the-Sea to Holkham Bay, is crisscrossed by paths allowing access through the pine woodland.
RSPB Snettisham has amazing displays of waders and wildfowl, attracted by the mudbanks and salt marshes of The Wash. Norfolk bird watching offers a breathtaking flight of up to 50,000 wading birds leaving the mudflats of The Wash and landing in front of Snettisham’s hides which is one of nature’s most impressive sights. Though waders can be seen on all of the highest tides from mid-July to late May, the best period is from August to January.
RSPB Titchwell Marsh has good birding all year. In Spring you will see migrating waders such as ruffs in breeding plumage, black-tailed godwits and spotted redshanks. Watch marsh harriers perform their amazing ‘sky-dancing’ and listen out for a booming bittern.
Watch out for dragonflies and damselflies in summer as well as water voles along the meadow trail. Catch curlew sandpipers and little stint in autumn and roosting birds of prey, rafts of wildfowl and skeins of pink footed geese in winter.
Nearby is Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Holmes Dunes Nature Reserve, which has the added benefit of some lovely beach. Look to your left and you’ll see the cliffs and lighthouse at Old Hunstanton.
Other places of wildlife interest include Pensthorpe Natural Park, you can see deer at Holkham and Gunton and, of course, you can’t leave Norfolk without seeing the seals at Blakeney Point. Take a boat trip from Morston Quay. This is the largest colony in the country, particularly over Winter when the Greys have their pups.
W is also for walking