Your daily guide to the Top Tens for Christmas: Christmas Wildlife
- Credit: Matthew Usher
It might be cold out there, but it's the best time to see wildlife in Norfolk. Chris Bishop reports on the county's wealth of winter wonders.
1 Top spectacle..? If you can haul yourself out of bed in time, the daily in-bound flight of thousands of pink-foot geese over Snettisham Beach at dawn takes some beating. These long-haul migrants form up in great V-shaped skeins, before they fly inland to feed on beet tops.
2 Swan feed. From the more civilised (and slightly warmer...) surrounds of the Wildfowl and Wetland's Trust's Centre at Welney, you can watch reserve wardens feed the thousands of whooper and Bewick's swans which migrate to the Ouse washes each winter under the floodlights.
3 Sealed with a fish. Norfolk's seals seem to have survived the worst of the battering from the winter storms. This is the time of year when grey seals have their pups and you can get on board a boat trip from Blakeney or Morston to wish them a happy Christmas.
4 Otter than July. It's easier to be an otter spotter this time of year. As the river levels rise and the water colours up, they switch to easier hunting grounds like gravel pits, broads and estate lakes. Find vantage point with a good view over a stretch of water, plot up with your flask and binos and you never know.
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5 Life's a beach. A walk on the beach can cleanse the soul as well as help to exercise away some of the seasonal excess. At Hunstanton, you can marvel at the famous candy cliffs, the tonnes of chalk brought down by the storms and watch a wealth of waders and the occasional bird of prey.
6 Hooting stars. On cold winter evenings, owls range far and wide for their food. Watch a barn owl fly soundlessly along the floodbanks along the Ouse at Ten Mile Bank or one of the drains around.
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7 Deer deer. Norfolk supports many, many more deer than you'd think. Both Holkham and Houghton halls have herds which can be seen through the woods as the undergrowth dies back. Gunton Park's another banker for deer spotting.
8 First reserve. Norfolk Wildlife Trust has more nature reserves than you can shake a stick at. It's first was Cley Marshes, which it purchased in 1926 with the proceeds of one of the first-ever charity Christmas cards. Worth a visit just for the view from the visitor centre towards the sea, along with flocks of waders and marsh harriers.
9 Whale, whale. Recent whale sightings off Scroby Sands and the north-eastern tip of the county mean you never know - it might just be worth a festive peek.
10 Under the Mistletoe. Norfolk is one fo the festive plant's strongholds, with The Walks in King's Lynn having particularly rich growth.