Birding Norfolk’s Fens & Forests

Bearded reedling (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Bearded reedling (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

My husband and I joke that we’re “Bird and Word.”   I’m addicted to birds.  He spends time with poetry, literature and art.  On our recent trip to England we made sure to pursue our dreams.  While Rick spent time in London visiting museums and the haunts of great poets, I went on a three day Oriole Birding tour of Norfolk County’s fens and forests.

The Norfolk Summer Breeders and Late Migrants tour on 28-30 June was great!  Seven of us joined bird guide Ashley Saunders for a tour that included 114 species (88 were Life Birds) despite relentless wind and rain on the first day.

From the moment I arrived at Kings Lynn railway station to the end of the tour, everything was taken care of:  transportation, meals, lodging and birds. We stayed at the Blue Boar Inn in Great Ryburgh where we enjoyed excellent accommodations, delicious food, and cool birds just a short walk away at the River Wensum.  Every day we spent 10+ hours in the field but our schedule included pauses for elevenses, lunch and 4pm tea, all packed in the van so we could eat outdoors and not miss the birds.  How civilized!

Ashley tailored the tour for the weather, recent rarities, and our wish lists.  He’s excellent at finding birds and making sure everyone sees them.  The advantage is that you see even more this way.  While we paused for a lingering look at Dartford warblers a rare pair of European honey buzzards flew over.  Woo hoo!

I saw all the birds I wrote about in the past few weeks except, of course, the birds of Finland.  And there were bonuses: I had never seen a chaffinch, an extremely common bird, so Ashley paused at a bird feeder to show me a brightly colored male.  Wow!  Click here to see a male chaffinch, about the size of a house finch.

Here’s Ashley’s summary of our Norfolk tour on the Oriole Birding website.

If you’re visiting England, I highly recommend Oriole Birding for great looks at the best birds in the U.K.  You’ll also enjoy Oriole’s international tours departing from the U.K. for birding sites around the world. Check out their website by clicking on their logo above.


In case you’re curious, here’s my list of Best Birds.  They were very hard to choose:

  • Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
  • Eurasian hobby (Falco subbuteo) — excellent looks at this peregrine-like falcon
  • Black-tailed godwits (Limosa limosa) — beautiful rusty color
  • Ruff (Calidris pugnax) in breeding plumage, far better than the non-breeding ruffs rarely seen in the U.S. in the winter
  • Bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus shown above)
  • Great bitterns (Botaurus stellaris)
  • European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)
  • European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus)
  • A family of little owls (Athene noctua)
  • And, near the Blue Boar Inn, superb views of a barn owl (Tyto alba) coursing over a field with rooks (Corvus frugilegus) wheeling in the background.  Without a doubt this was my visual highlight of the trip.
  • Last species on the tour: a family of peregrine falcons high up at their nest site in Kings Lynn.



(bearded reedling photo from Wikimedia Commons, Oriole Birding logo from the Oriole Birding website. Click on the images to see the originals)

p.s. Oriole Birding was named for the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), a rare bird that used to nest in poplar plantations in Norfolk County.  The golden oriole’s nesting requirements are so specific that when the old poplars fell down, the birds did not come back.

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