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Norfolk Broads Britain's Wetland Wilderness

A 4-day, summer birdwatching tour to the Norfolk Broads

Limosa’s midsummer birding tour to Norfolk focuses on the famous Norfolk Broads, Britain’s largest wetland wilderness. Protected from the sea by a barrier of low dunes, the Broads are at their loveliest during the summer months - and a home to rare breeding birds such as Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Common Crane, Little Tern and Bearded Tit. Come the end of June, waders will already be returning south and Hobbies hunt the marshes for hirundines, Nightjars are churring and Swallowtail butterflies are on the wing. We’re based in comfort at award winning farm barn accommodation close to the east Norfolk coast, with easy access to all the best wildlife spots.

Tour Dates





To be advised

Max Group Size: 8
Duration: 4 Days

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Cost: £650*

from Hickling (or Norwich)

Deposit: £150

Single Supp: £70*

* Prices Provisional (tba)

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Swallowtails - Britain's largest and most spectacular butterfly, as well as one of its rarest and most localised - should be emerging in late May and are still on the wing in early July © Gary Elton, Limosa

Encompassing an area of some 300 sq. km, the Norfolk Broads are the UK’s largest protected wetland and a National Park in all but name. Yet despite their natural appearance the Broads are actually man-made, evolving over centuries from medieval peat diggings that subsequently flooded to form shallow lakes. Today this vast patchwork of rivers, meres, marshes, reed beds, meadows and wooded fens is outstanding for wildlife of all kinds - and a haven for many of Britain’s rarest wetland animals and plants.

Lying close to Norfolk's tranquil east coast, the immense watery wilderness of Hickling, Horsey and Martham Broads is a ‘must’ to visit during the summer. Marsh Harriers are plentiful and seldom out of sight for long; Bearded Tits ‘ping’ in the reedbeds; and Cetti’s Warblers shout at passing birdwatchers from watery thickets. Barn Owls are perhaps nowhere more numerous in the UK than here - and there is even a small but increasing population of Cranes to watch for!

The scrub-covered dunes that protect the low-lying coast are well worth investigating, too. Nightjar, Hobby and Stonechat breed and this underwatched stretch of Norfolk's coastline is always worth checking for migrant birds. While not far to the south, the tidal waters of Breydon Water are an important rest and refuelling stop for resident, wintering and passage waders.

Much of Broadland lies well off the beaten birding track and we may find ourselves exploring one or two less well-known spots - perhaps the recently created wetland at Potter Heigham or the valley of the River Ant, where quiet boardwalks weave through swampy alder carr and tucked away footpaths offer a chance to peek over hidden marshes and lakes. Little Egrets are a common sight across the Broads nowadays and have a habit of popping up just about everywhere, and both Great Egret and Spoonbill showed well on our tours in 2018 and 2019. Mammals to watch out for include Muntjac, Chinese Water Deer and occasionally Otter.
One special highlight of our summer tour to the Broads is our visit to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Hickling Broad. Marsh Harriers and Common Cranes are regularly seen; few sights or sounds are more thrilling than watching these enormous grey birds flying low over the marshes, bugling as they go! We'll also enjoy a delightful boat trip out onto Hickling Broad, giving access to hides that are otherwise impossible to reach and overlooking hidden pools that are attractive to waders and waterfowl on summer passage.

A high summer visit can be a terrific time to see Bitterns, now busy ferrying food to their young in the reedbeds. We'll look for Little Terns at the coast, and passage waders already making their way back south at this time include Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank. Perhaps surprisingly, not all bird song is over - Nightjars and Grasshopper Warblers sing well into July and fine summer evenings offer chances to see and hear both. Swallowtail butterflies - Britain's largest and most spectacular butterfly, as well as one of its rarest and most localised - Dark Green Fritillaries and the scarce Norfolk Hawker dragonfly should all be about, and the first Purple Hairstreaks might just be emerging in the oak woodland.

Our tour is based at award-winning converted farm barn accommodation near Hickling, where a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked farmhouse breakfast and dinners are assured - and all within a few minutes drive of key birding spots on both the east Norfolk coast and Broads.

Whether you are new to birdwatching or more experienced, Limosa’s expert guide will be on hand to take you to the best spots and ensure you have as much fun as possible whilst enjoying seeing lots of great birds and wildlife.

Limosa has been operating birdwatching tours in Norfolk for 35 years... Join us on our own ‘home patch’ and let us show you the beauty, bounty and very special birdlife of the Norfolk Broads!

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Grasshopper Warblers can be heard reeling in the Broads throughout the spring and summer months © Brian Small, Limosa

Our birdwatching tours to the Norfolk Broads commence with arrival at Dairy Barns Hickling on the Monday evening, where we meet at around 7.00pm for an informal get-together prior to enjoying dinner. Tuesday and Wednesday provide two full days in the field, with packed lunches and flasks of tea and coffee available on demand. We return to the hotel each evening in time for dinner. After spending the best part of our final day (Thursday) in the field, the break concludes back at Dairy Barns around 2.30pm for farewells and departure for home.

Our hotel is perfectly placed for getting about the Broads, lying within just a couple of minutes drive both of the coast and major wetland sites such as Hickling and Horsey Broads, and with easy access to the Yare Valley and Breydon Water to the south. A maze of minor roads gives access to some of the Broads’ quieter backwaters and during our stay we may find ourselves exploring one or two tucked away spots that, even today, remain largely undiscovered by visiting birders.

As with all our Norfolk breaks, we may vary the below itinerary to take best advantage of the weather, local conditions and what birds and other wildlife are about at the time of your visit.

Highlights from our last four Broads tours have included Spoonbill, Great Egret, Black-winged Stilt, Little Gull and Savi's Warbler - and while we can't promise you a 'rarity' on every trip, one thing’s for certain: wherever we go and whatever we do, in Norfolk there will always be excitement and plenty to see!

Day 1
Our birdwatching tours to the Norfolk Broads begin with an evening rendezvous at our converted farm barn accommodation near the village of Hickling, close to Norfolk's east coast. We gather for an informal get-together at 7.00pm, followed by dinner. Night Hickling

Days 2-3
Occupying a vast swathe of low-lying land between Norwich and Norfolk’s east coast, the Broads comprise Britain’s largest and most important protected wetland area. Its tranquil rural landscape of windmills, winding rivers, wetlands and waving reeds, mixed with cool, wet woodlands (carr), grazing marshes and arable fields is unique. The whole creates a mosaic of wonderful habitats that are exceptionally rich in wildlife, boasting everything from Cranes and Cetti’s Warblers to Swallowtail butterflies and Chinese Water Deer.

To make best use of our time, our tours focus on the area of Broadland that lies to the northeast of Norwich, along the valleys of the rivers Bure, Thurne and Ant, and south to Breydon Water on the River Yare, which exits into the sea at Great Yarmouth. Within this immense, low-lying basin are to be found some of the UK’s rarest breeding birds: Bittern, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Avocet, Bearded Tit and the vociferous but ‘oh-so-difficult-to-see’ Cetti’s Warbler are resident, and Barn Owls are perhaps more numerous here than anywhere else in the UK. Norfolk's small but steadily increasing population of Cranes has its main home here - although for all their size, the great grey birds can often prove elusive!

Great Crested and Little Grebes, Teal, Shoveler, Gadwall and Garganey are among many species of waterfowl to nest locally. The summer reed beds are alive with Reed and Sedge Warblers, and there are Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Garden Warblers, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs to watch for, too. While spring is of course the best season for bird song, Cetti’s and Grasshopper Warblers, Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers are among a surprising number of species that continue singing well into July.

High summer is a good time to see the dashing Hobby over the marshes, chasing down the abundance of Swifts, Swallows, martins and dragonflies on which it preys. Early July can also be an exciting time of year to look for passage waders such as Ruff and Green Sandpiper, now heading back south again towards their winter quarters. If we are lucky to catch a rising tide at Breydon Water, we'll find that shorebirds and Shelduck are forced off the expansive mudflats to roost within comfortable viewing range. One or two Mediterranean Gulls are regularly present too, either here or at the coast nearby.

Britain's largest and most spectacular butterfly, the Swallowtail, emerges from late May and remains on the wing in Norfolk until mid-July. We'll watch for them flying strongly over the reeds - if the weather is fine, of course! A late June visit also adds the prospect of the localised Dark Green Fritillary, dashing over sand dunes along the coast and, with any luck, the season's first Purple Hairstreaks might also be emerging now - we'll hope to look down on them from a sturdy viewing platform in the tree tops beside Hickling Broad. The tower is easily ascended via a steel staircase and - even if the butterflies don't oblige - it's well worth the effort climbing up for bird's eye views across the vast marshes from the top are unrivalled.

This can also be a great trip for dragonflies, including the scarce Norfolk Hawker. With its clear wings, green eyes and yellow triangle on the body helping to separate it from the more common Brown Hawker, East Anglia is the only part of the UK where this localised speciality occurs.

As dusk falls over Hickling and Horsey Mere, Chinese Water Deer emerge from their daytime hideaways to graze in the fields and Barn Owls drift silently back and forth across the marshes.

While there's plenty to occupy us within the Broads, the east Norfolk coast also lies within a few minutes drive of where we stay. The scrub-covered dunes that protect its low-lying shores from Waxham south to Winterton are attractive to migrants and have a long history of turning up rare and unusual birds. Stonechats and Meadow Pipits nest in the dunes and we'll pay an evening visit here specially to look and listen for Nightjars, which also breed. Three species of breeding tern - Sandwich, Common and Little Terns - feed along the shore; indeed, the thrill of watching hundreds of Little Terns fishing and ferrying sand eels off Sea Palling was a major trip highlight for participants on last summer’s tour. Nights Hickling

Day 4
One special highlight of our summer tour will be a boat trip this morning on to Hickling Broad, largest of Norfolk's broads, to visit the hides overlooking Swim Coots and Rush Hills scrape. Hemmed by reeds, these large shallow lagoons are attractive to passage waders in early July. Avocets, Lapwings and Common Terns nest, one or two Garganey are often about and passage waders regularly include both Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Black-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Ruff and Little Stint. Scarcities such as Spoonbill and Little Gull also drop in from time to time - and a couple of our groups have even been lucky to see Otter here!

After enjoying a final picnic lunch at Hickling, our summer break concludes with a return to nearby Dairy Barns at around 2.30pm this afternoon, for farewells and journeys home.

*1  Please note the boat trip is subject to weather and availability, and may sometimes be rescheduled to run on a different day of our tour.

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We've been lucky enough to see Great Egret on our last four spring and summer tours to the Norfolk Broads - including this one at Hickling © Gary Elton, Limosa

What To Expect

Led by Limosa’s friendly expert guides, our Norfolk holidays are suitable for birdwatchers of all levels of ability, interest and experience. Just bring your bins and enthusiasm for birds - we’ll do the rest!

The UK climate is famous for its unpredictability. In Norfolk, temperatures in late June/July typically range from 11-20C (52-64F). It can feel cooler at the coast if an onshore breeze is blowing. Norfolk is one of the driest parts of the UK, but some rainfall is of course possible at any season so do bring rainwear just in case.


90-110 species


5-10 species


15-25 species

Britain's largest and most spectacular butterfly, the Swallowtail, emerges in the second half of May and remains on the wing in Norfolk until mid-July. We'll watch for them flying strongly over the reeds - provided the weather is fine, of course!

A high summer tour adds the prospect of the localised Dark Green Fritillary along the coast, and the season's first Purple Hairstreaks should also be emerging about now - we'll hope to look down on them from a sturdy viewing platform in the tree tops beside Hickling Broad.

10-15 species - including the scarce green-eyed Norfolk Hawker.


3 nights accommodation in Norfolk at the award-winning converted Dairy Barns, on a working farm betwixt the sleepy village of Hickling and the east Norfolk coast close by. Beautifully converted to provide warm and comfortable accommodation, and with good, old-fashioned farmhouse breakfasts and evening meals to look forward to. All rooms en suite.


 All main meals are included in the price, commencing with dinner on arrival at the hotel on the evening of Day 1 and concluding with a packed lunch on Day 4.

Excellent farmhouse breakfasts and dinners; lunches will be picnics to make the most of our time in the field.


Easy. Short walks (1-4 miles) at a gentle pace over mostly flat terrain. Sturdy trainers will suffice if the weather is dry; if not, wear comfortable waterproof walking shoes or boots. Wellies recommended in wet weather, and can be handy first thing when the long grass along paths can be wet with dew first thing.


Excursions are by minibus.

Participants arriving in Norfolk by car will be sent a map and joining instructions to find Dairy Barns, Hickling. We meet for an informal get-together at around 7.00pm on the first evening.

For those without their own transport, we pick up at Norwich railway station at approx 4.45-5.00pm on the Monday afternoon (most routes arrive into Norwich just ahead of this time), and are able to drop off there again by about 4.00pm on the Thursday evening. There is no extra cost for pick-up and drop-off as outlined above.

Please note: if you intend to travel by rail and wish to spend an extra night or two at the hotel before or after the tour, we are unable to offer return transport to/from the station. Instead, it will be necessary for you to arrange a taxi from Norwich to Hickling or vice versa (a distance of approx. 20 miles) or to the nearest branch line at Wroxham (approx. 12 miles).

Boat Trips

Our tour price includes the cost of reserve entry fee and a 2-3 hour boat trip at Hickling Broad NWT Reserve, visiting private hides with an experienced naturalist boatman.

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Is it just us or someone can't count?... Four-spotted Chaser is one of a number of Broadland dragonflies on the wing during May and July © Gary Elton, Limosa

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