16 ways to see winter at its best
PUBLISHED: 12:14 25 January 2014 | UPDATED: 12:15 25 January 2014
Winter may seem the least likely time to see nature in all its glory but you’d be surprised just how much wildlife there is to be spotted if you wrap up warm and head out binoculars in hand.
Nature’s winter calendar
This is the best time of year to see the huge flocks of geese for which north Norfolk is so famous, roosting on coastal marshes at Holkham, Blakeney Freshes, Cley, Salthouse and Snettisham. Wrap up warm for an early start to see wintering dark-bellied brent geese, pink-footed geese, white-fronted geese, greylag geese, and quite a few Canada geese too. Look out for winter blooms of snowdrops and aconites at Peckover House and Garden in Wisbech, or Oxburgh Hall near Swaffham. Help survey the region’s wildlife by counting the birds as part of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
Chinese water deer abound on the north Norfolk coast. These small deer love the saltmarsh at Titchwell in north-west Norfolk. Look for their tracks along the footpaths, and if you’re lucky you may just spot one around dusk – although they play a great game of “hide and seek”. Take your loved one on a Valentine’s Day walk from Great Yarmouth station around Breydon Water, where the mud is full of bugs and creatures which attract thousands of winter wading birds.
Mad March hares square up for boxing matches at the RSPB reserve of Havergate Island, near Aldeburgh. As well as brown hares, the island is also home to migrant wading birds, late departing ducks, barn owls, little egrets and much more. The first signs of spring bring daffodils and ducklings to places like Titchwell Marsh and at Blickling.
Big Garden Bird and Wildlife Watch
BTO Reserve, Nunnery Lakes, Thetford, January 25, 10am-3.30pm, free admission, 01842 753732, rspb.org.uk
Join RSPB wardens at Nunnery Lakes for this free event to celebrate the world’s biggest wildlife survey. There will be a guided walk around the reserve from 11am-12.30am looking out for birds such as kingfishers and other winter wildlife. From 10am-3.30pm there will be free family activities will be running such as mini-beast hotel and bird feeder making. Plus learn how you can give nature a home in your garden. Just turn up.
Big Garden Birdwatch
RSPB Lakenheath Fen, Brandon, January 25, 10am-3pm, free admission, 01842 863400, rspb.org.uk
A day of family fun Lakenheath Fen to get yourselves ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch. There will be a wide range of activities, including the chance to make fat balls and a bird ringing demonstration.
Big Garden Birdwatch
Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve, near King’s Lynn, January 26, 10.30am-3pm, £5 per car, 01485 210779, www.rspb.org.uk
Titchwell Marsh hosts fun activities for all ages. Take part in the Hear, See and Feel Nature event to test or improve your bird knowledge, make your own bird feeder and enter the Big Garden Birdwatch raffle to be in with the chance to win a binocular, the RSPB gift box and a bird box, a combined value of £200. Just guess how many seeds are in the bird feeder!
Big Garden Birdwatch
Hautbois Activity Centre, Coltishall, January 26, 10am-3pm, free admission, 01603 737357, www.hautbois.org.uk
Hautbois Activity Centre joins the Big Garden Birdwatch. Nature lovers of all ages can explore our 28-acre estate whilst helping to contribute to the wildlife survey, and also have the chance to see Hautbois’ newly-opened ‘Discovery Zone’. Hautbois is the perfect for a great family day out. You can try some nature crafts and hot refreshments will be on sale.
Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve, near King’s Lynn, Mon/Thurs/Fri until February 28, £6 (£1 discount RSPB members), £4 children, pre-book 01485 210779, www.rspb.org.uk
Get to know this RSPB reserve and its amazing range of wildlife with a series of friendly and knowledgeable walks throughout January and February. The guides will highlight interesting stories and tell you about the wide range of wildlife that call the reserve their home. Walks generally last 2-3 hours and are tailored according to the weather and visitor knowledge. Mondays at 9.30am, Thursdays and Fridays at 1pm. Pre-booking essential.
Weekend Wildlife Walk/Winter Wander
RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk, until February 25, £5, £2.50 children, plus normal entry fees for non members, pre-book 01728 648281, www.rspb.org.uk
A seasonal weekend walk (Jan 26, 9.30am) to look for migrants, wintering ducks, mammals, plants and a host of other wildlife highlights that may be present at the time. Not suitable for children under eight. While the Winter Wanders (Jan 24/28, Feb 7/11/25, all 10am) are relaxed walks, returning to the visitor centre in time to purchase a warming bowl of soup. These shorter walks will take in one or two hides, depending on where the best variety of wildlife can be seen, and are ideal for beginners and improvers.
Holkham Nature Reserve, January 26/February 23, 10am, free admission, more details on 01328 800730, www.holkham.co.uk
Holkham are looking for volunteers to help with various tasks to help maintain this beautiful coastline and environment. Help stop the sand dunes from developing into woodland by removing pine scrub from sand dunes (Jan 26 and Feb 23). Meet 10am at Lady Anne’s Drive. Tools, gloves and refreshments will be provided, but take your own lunch if you plan to stay all day.
Breydon Boat Trip
Breydon Water, January 27, 10am-12.30pm, £7 (£6/£4 RSPB members), £5 under-18s, pre-book 01603 715191, www.rspb.org.uk
See the spectacle of thousands of wintering ducks, geese, and wading birds feeding on the wide expanse of Breydon Water estuary. A chance to get close to a great variety of birds, including golden plover, teal, wigeon, redshank and lapwings. The trip is on a small, open boat, and gets very cold - so wrap up in warm in waterproof clothing! Meet at Goodchild Marine, Butt Lane, Burgh Castle. Pre-booking essential. Not recommended for young children. Future dates include February 9, 25 and March 11.
Titchwell Marsh Nature Reserve, near King’s Lynn, January 28, 1pm, £6 (£1 discount RSPB members), £4 children, pre-book 01485 210779, www.rspb.org.uk
A series of sessions that offer a exciting introductory guided walk to bird watching at Titchwell Marsh nature reserve, with a great and season changing variety of species there is plenty to look at and learn. Ideal for families who want to learn more about spotting birds. They are running every Tuesday until February 25. Booking is essential as events fill up very quickly.
RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk, from January 28, 10.45am, £5, free admission, pre-book 01728 648281, www.rspb.org.uk
Meet at 10.45am outside the Minsmere visitor centre for these walks which begin in 2014 on January 28 for health around the nature reserve, right by the sea, home to some of north Suffolk’s greatest wildlife. Depending on the weather and walkers’ abilities and preferences, it takes a coastal, woodland, or reedbed route. You’ll also get free access to the reserve. Led by RSPB volunteers trained as Health Walk Leaders.
Children’s Wildlife Watch
Hickling Board, February 9, 10am-12pm, £6, pre-book 01603 625540, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
A chance for children to explore NWT Hickling Broad and all the humble homes which can be found there, and learn about different species and what makes their perfect abode. Afterwards, they can do be your bit for wildlife by making homes for the animals in your garden. Wellies advised. One accompanying adult free.
Stubb Mill, February 9, 2.30pm, free admission, no need to pre-book, www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk
A walk to Stubb Mill in Hickling to watch the raptors come in to roost as the light fades with experts Jon Shutes and Philip Howard. Make sure you wear very warm clothing and take telescopes or binoculars and a flask Meet in the car park at NWT Hickling Broad Visitor Centre.
Signs of Spring Week
Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, South Walsham, February 15-23, 10am-5pm, £6.10 (£5.60 cons), £3.60 children, under-5s free, 01603 270449, www.fairhavengarden.co.uk
As the temperature drops in wintery January, here is something to look forward to. A half-term week of family walks in (nearly) spring! Celebrate by joining Fairhaven’s guides to look out for signs of spring in the woodland garden. No need to pre-book.