Norfolk Birdwatching Sites and the Birding Year

Birding Sites and Seasons.

Norfolk has a large number of birdwatching sites ranging from the well known places,  the RSPB & Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves at Titchwell , Holme and Cley, to more less known tucked away birdwatching areas, where it is possible to get away from it all. These latter areas are invariably at times under watched and give us amble opportunity to find our own birds and enjoy the fantastic Norfolk countryside and scenery. Examples of these include places such as  Burnham Overy Staithe and Dunes, Stiffkey Fen, Holkham Meols and  Warham Greens.

The Norfolk Year

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In the early Spring it can be just as productive away from the coast, especially in and around the Breckland area of the county in and around Thetford Forest. Here species such as Goshawk, a close canopy species,  display over their territories at this time of year. Wintering Hawfinches are still present, easier to see prior to starting to breed after which they become incredibly secretive. The first returning Stone Curlews and local early breeding Woodlarks can be found coupled with local knowledge we  increase our chances massively of seeing these birds.

Migration and coastal birding later in the Spring can also be rewarding, from enjoying the awaited return of our summer visitors back from their African wintering areas, to the  waders in their breeding plumage enroute to their Arctic breeding sites. Norfolk’s geographical position also means you never quite know what surprise will turn up at this time of year, as either a southern ‘overshoot’ or a drift migrant from further east.

Summer is often written off as a non birding season, but there’s plenty on offer. Evening visits to look for species such as Nightjar and Woodcock plus breeding Bitterns, Common Cranes and Bearded Tits in and around the wetlands in the county. Butterflies and Dragonflies are also a draw with the Norfolk Broads being amongst the best places in the country to see the iconic Swallowtail butterfly and Norfolk Hawker dragonfly (below).

Norfolk Hawker

The Autumn months are arguably, especially to the birders who live in the county, the most exciting. With favourable winds from the east and associated weather fronts historically producing a mouth watering array of rarities plus some spectacular falls of large numbers of commoner birds notably Thrushes, Robins and Goldcrests. 

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The Winter months revealing thousands of Icelandic Pink-footed Geese, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Shorelarks, Short-eared Owls, Twite and Snow Buntings along the North Norfolk Coast. 

The East coast and the Broads can be just as productive , with a winter visit to Hickling raptor roost producing impressive numbers of Marsh Harriers, invariably accompanied by Hen Harriers and Merlins.  The immediate area regularly attracts wild Swans, feeding Common Cranes and  Short-eared Owl. Nearby Breydon Water attracts thousands of roosting ducks and waders easily viewable on the high tides and the sea front at Great Yarmouth a regular wintering site for the attractive Mediterranean Gull.

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Adult Mediterranean Gull.