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 themselves are actually man-made, evolving over centuries from medieval peat diggings that subsequently flooded to form shallow lakes. Today this immense 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 tranquil east coast, the immense watery wilderness of Hickling, Horsey and Martham Broads is a ‘must’ to visit 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 chastise passing birdwatchers from the watery thickets. Best of all, there is a small but well-established population of Common Cranes to watch out for!
The scrub-covered dunes that protect the low-lying east coast are well worth investigating at this season, too. Stonechat and Snow Bunting are regularly about 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 - 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 the more stately Great Egret has also gained a toe hold in recent years. A late autumn 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, while the uncommon, frost-winged Mediterranean Gull favours the deserted east coast beaches. Mammals to watch for include Red and Roe Deer, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer - even Otter, if we are very lucky!
A particular highlight of our November tours 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 can be as many as 80), where they are joined by the odd Hen Harrier, Merlin, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and ghostly Barn Owl. Norfolk’s ‘homegrown’ population of Common Cranes continues to increase and is often best viewed from here - with few sights or sounds 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 them, along with parties of Whooper and Bewick's Swans. We’ll also 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 here, expect to see lots of waders, Teal, Wigeon and White-fronted Geese and maybe Peregrine, too. Nearby, is Britain's largest roost of Rooks and Jackdaws - up to 50,000 birds strong! The swirling mass of birds presents a spectacle at dusk that will linger long in the memory.
We are based throughout at award-winning converted farm barn accommodation, where a warm welcome and delicious home-cooked farmhouse breakfast and dinners are assured - and all within an easy drive of key birding spots in Broadland and along the east Norfolk coast.
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 in eastern England and let us introduce you to the beauty and bountiful birdlife of the Norfolk Broads!