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. Despite their natural appearance the Broads themselves are actually man-made, evolving over centuries from medieval peat diggings that subsequently flooded to form shallow lakes. Today this enormous patchwork of rivers, meres and lonely 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 east coast, a visit to the immense watery wilderness of Hickling and Horsey Broads is a ‘must’ in winter. Marsh Harriers are plentiful in the marshes and seldom out of sight for long, Bearded Tits ‘ping’ in the reedbeds and Cetti’s Warblers shout at passing birdwatchers from the watery thickets. There is even a small but well-established population of Common Cranes to watch out for! The dunes that protect the adjacent low-lying coast are well worth investigating, too: Stonechat and Snow Bunting are regularly about in winter and Grey Seals pupping on the deserted sandy beaches are a special highlight here from late November.
Much of Broadland lies well off the beaten birding track and we may find ourselves exploring one or two less well-known spots, where quiet boardwalks weave their way through swampy alder carr and tucked away footpaths offer a chance to peek over lonely marshes and lakes.
Britain's largest roost of Rooks and Jackdaws is also to be found here in winter, and can be up to 50,000 birds strong - a dusk spectacle that will linger long in the memory! Little Egrets have a habit of popping up in the most unexpected places and the uncommon Mediterranean Gull favours the deserted east coast beaches. A winter visit to the Norfolk Broads can turn up the odd surprise - like the Cattle Egret we found near the hotel on our 2015 tour or perhaps a party of silken Waxwings feasting on hedgerow berries. Mammals to watch for Red and Roe Deer, Muntjac and the peculiar Chinese Water Deer - even Otter if we are very lucky!
A particular highlight of our winter tours to the Broads is a visit to Britain’s largest and most famous raptor roost. Impressive numbers of Marsh Harriers are regularly present (typically 30-40 birds but there may be as many as 80), where they are joined by the odd Hen Harrier, Merlin, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and hunting Barn Owl. Norfolk’s population of Common Cranes continues to increase and is often best viewed from here - and few sights or sounds are more thrilling than watching these great birds flying low over the winter marshes, bugling as they go!
Wildfowl are plentiful on the lakes and marshes, and Pink-footed Geese especially have increased dramatically in East Norfolk in recent years. We will check the fields of winter wheat and grass for parties of Whooper and Bewick's Swans and make a special effort to locate one Britain’s rarest and most elusive winter wildfowl: Taiga Bean Goose. Even if the Bean Geese elude us, expect to see lots of waders, Teal, Wigeon and White-fronted Geese and maybe Peregrine, too.
We are based in comfort at award-winning converted farm barn accommodation, where a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked farmhouse breakfast and dinners are assured - and all within just a few minutes drive of key birding spots along the East Norfolk coast and Broads.
Whether you are new to birdwatching or more experienced, our 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 birding tours in Norfolk for 34 years.
Join us for the wild side of winter and let us introduce you to the beauty and bountiful birdlife of the Norfolk Broads!