Stroll through a bluebell wood, wonder at the beauty of a swallowtail butterfly or see marsh harriers soar above the wildlife-rich wetlands of the Norfolk Broads. The Norfolk Broads is blessed with a huge variety of birds, many of which were rarely seen but now their numbers have multiplied and they are more easily spotted by the keen bird watchers eye. Our bird reserves too are proving very popular, so bring your binoculars and keen a watchful eye out for our feathery friends
The Broads is the UK's largest nationally protected area of wetland. Its rivers, broads (shallow lakes), marshes and fens make it a unique area, rich in rare habitats, which support a myriad of plants and animals. Globally, wetlands are among the most threatened of landscapes. Luckily, the RSPB is protecting huge areas of this habitat in the five nature reserves that you can visit here.
You could take a leisurely walk around the reedbeds and woodlands at Strumpshaw Fen, with the chance of hearing 'booming' bitterns, seeing 'sky dancing' marsh harriers and, if you’re lucky, encounter a family of otters. In summer look out for the spectacular swallowtail butterfly and Norfolk hawker dragonflies in the orchid-rich meadows.
Families can take part in summer pond-dipping, take out a wildlife spotting sheet, or borrow a wildlife explorers’ rucksack with binoculars, magnifying pots and wildlife guides. There’s a small charge for visiting Strumpshaw Fen (free for RSPB members).
Adjacent to Strumpshaw Fen is the wide open expanse of Buckenham Marshes. Visit in winter to see thousands of wigeon, teal, lapwing, and golden plover feeding and flocking on the marshes. Look out for birds of prey, including peregrines, marsh harriers, kestrels and barn owls. In spring watch out for boxing hares in the surrounding fields.
If you're keen on wetland birds, why not stop off at Berney Marshes? This expanse of rich wetland is home to thousands of wintering ducks, geese and wading birds. This remote reserve is only accessible by train, boat or foot (no car access). Next to Berney Marshes are the rich mudflats of the Breydon Waterestuary. Join an RSPB boat trip in winter to see huge flocks of birds feeding on the estuary, including avocets, golden plovers, wigeon, redshanks and curlews.
If you simply fancy escaping the city for an hour, Rockland Marsh and Surlingham Church Marsh have short trails where you can enjoy a peaceful walk alongside pools and reedbeds.
The RSPB has a year-round programme of events in the Broads, including guided walks, family activity days and winter boat trips. For an extra special day out, you can also hire a warden for your own tailor-made visit. For more details see www.rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen