North Norfolk provides birdwatching paradise

When it comes to birdwatching, it doesn’t come much better than Norfolk – particularly North Norfolk.

With a mix of coastal waters, inland waterways, forests and common-ground, North Norfolk is a haven for a multitude of birds. From tiny, darting firecrest to majestic birds of prey and honking squadrons of geese.

Three of the best

For birdwatchers of all ages and experience, the three RSPB nature reserves at Cley Marshes, Titchwell and Snettisham are the places to go for some really spectacular sights as well as some rare ornithological sightings.

Cley’s contemporary visitor centre has a wealth of information about the feathered visitors and residents of the area. Among the birds you can watch are: red shank, egrets, teal, widgeon, curlews, dunlin, oyster catcher, marsh harrier and the shy bittern. And that is just the start of a very long list!

From the visitor centre you can see across the marshes but to really appreciate the area, it is worth walking around the reserve. You can walk the footpaths and boardwalk whenever you wish, but to visit the hides, you need to obtain a pass from the visitor centre.

There is also a two hour circular walk. It may take just a little longer if you stop at the hides or benches. You can pick up a leaflet from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley Visitor Centre, and it shows you where the walk goes.

A wide range of birds appear at Titchwell. While not as numerous and varied as Cley, there is a beautiful walk out to the reserve. The chance of catching sight of seals playing at the water’s edge makes it a trip well worth making.

Spectacular murmurations

The Snettisham Spectacular is definitely a must-see for anyone in Norfolk.  It is world famous for it’s incredible spectacle of knot and oyster catcher swarming together as the tide comes in. The sight of these murmurations over the mud flats is astonishing. Add to that the spectacle of the pink-footed geese, flying over in their hundreds, the noise is something to experience.

Moving towards the east of the county and you can spend some time in the reserves around the Norfolk Broads.

Bittern by the birdwatching bug

The NWT Hickling Broad covers a huge expanse of reed beds and is one of the largest areas of waterways on the Broads. This reserve now covers 1400 acres and is home to bitterns and swallowtail butterflies. You can watch the natural world from the dizzying heights of a 60ft high watch tower.

It is cormorant central at NWT Ranworth Broad. This reserve is home to one of the largest colonies of the cormorant in the UK.

The RSPB site of Strumpshaw Fen is another wonderful reserve set in the surrounds of the Norfolk Broads.  Here you can walk along the quiet banks of the River Yare and through the meadows, woodlands  and reedbeds. Kingfisher, herons, egrets and a large variety of other birds call this lovely reserve home.

Sculthorpe Moor is inland, on the Wensum Valley near Fakenham.  This is a fantastic small 45 acre reserve where you’ll have a much more intimate bird watching experience.  It’s a really lovely reserve managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust.

The beauty of the North Norfolk birdwatching scene is that there is always something happening. Whatever time of the year you visit, there will be bird activity and something that will just take your breath away.