GetOutside Champion: Alan Parkinson
Alan is an award-winning geography teacher, and author, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Chartered Geographer.
Find out our top recommendations for fantastic places to go birdwatching in the Broads National Park.
The Broads is a rich, rare habitat of marshes and fens and is one of the UK’s most unique environments. It is also the largest nationally protected wetland area in the UK. Much of the bird life can only be accessed by boat or foot in The Broads to protect them from large crowds of people and cars. This makes it one of the best places in Britain to birdwatch. Autumn and winter are particularly good seasons for birdwatching in The Broads due to the large amount of wading birds, ducks and geese that are spending the winter nesting on the wet marshlands.
The RSPB is currently protecting 5 large nature reserves in The Broads and these are great places to experience the bird life that the national park has to offer. Alternatively there are lots of other broads, marshes and fens within the National Park where you can experience a beautiful selection of bird life. Always follow the guidelines set out by the nature reserves and always put the safety and comfort of birds before your own personal enjoyment.
Strumpshaw Fen is made up of reed beds and woodland, and is described as the wild heart of The Broads. There is plenty to do at Strumpshaw Fen including three hides to birdwatch from and guided walking tours for birdwatching beginners. This nature reserve is family friendly, offering activities for children including activity rucksacks which can be taken out and about around the reserve. Entry charges to visit the reseverve for non RSPB members are: £3.50 for adults, £2.50 for concessions and £1.50 for children.
This marsh is a wide open expanse offering opportunities to see wigeon, teal, lapwings and golden plover as they feed on the surrounding marshes. Buckenham is also home to a wide variety of birds of prey including kestrels, peregrines and barn owls. Buckenham Marsh offers free entry but encourages donations to help towards the protection of the birds throughout the year. This is a fantastic spot for birdwatching during the autumn and winter months as large amounts of birds come to this site to settle down for winter. The RSPB guided winter walks for beginners will help you learn all about the wintering birds here and include sightings of the only regular wintering flock of bean geese in England.
For a truly bird crazy experience visit Hickling Broad – the largest of all the broads in the National Park. Surrounded by reed and sedge bed, this beautiful broad shows off some of the national park's most exciting and beautiful bird species. Climb up the 60ft tree tower for some jaw dropping views of the wetland or quietly capture some of the best bird life in the observation hides. A sighting of a barn owl is almost guaranteed at Hickling Broad along with the roosting marsh harriers which are also a common sight. If luck is on your side you may even see a kingfisher.
Ranworth is a haven for bird life. With its car-free zones and ban on river traffic the peacefulness makes Ranworth the perfect bird sanctuary. This is our top recommendation for a family, birdwatching filled day as it is packed with activities to get the kids interested in different bird species. There is 750 metres of boardwalk to explore, leading through a maze of reeds and shrubbery with a floating visitor information centre hiding in the reeds. Amidst the rich tapestry, reeds and boardwalks you will find information boards providing facts about the local bird life. For birdwatching with a twist, take the night boat from Ranworth Discovery Centre (next trip Tuesday 25th Oct 6-9pm) to see owls swooping through the night and to have a truly different birdwatching experience.
Have you got a favourite place to go birdwatching? Let us know by commenting below and attach a picture of any bird life you have spotted.
Discover more about the birds you can spot in The Broads National Park.
Never explore without one
Stay safe, and stay active with Britain’s most accurate outdoor maps
Be inspired to do more and go further by equipping yourself with the best tools for the job. Our maps are built on 220 years of experience - we keep walkers, runners, cyclists and more safe in the great outdoors all year round.