Dersingham Bog by Bevereley Eele

Dersingham Bog

Dersingham Bog is a National Nature Reserve and forms part of what was once a vast heathland that stretched the entire length of the Greensand Escarpment from Kings Lynn to Heacham. Much of this heathland has now been lost to forestry and agriculture. Dersingham Bog is now one of the largest remaining area of lowland heathland left in Britain. Originally referred to as "Dersingham Fen, Dersingham Bog is now managed by English Nature and it is they who dubbed the site "Dersingham  Bog" (so says local historian, Dick Melton). The mixture of mire, heath and woodland provides ideal conditions for a wide variety of plants and animals. The light soil on which the pinewoods of Dersingham Bog are sited is sandy, so the tracks are usually reasonably dry and well-drained, making walking easy. There are wide, but steep steps down to the circular 300-metre long wooden boardwalk through the bog, which may be a strain for less able walkers and wholly unsuitable for wheelchairs.

The best time to visit the Dersingham Bog site is March to late April. Make it on a sunny day and you will enjoy some of the vest birding here as the birds are encouraged to sing and display. Dersingham Bog offers something a little different to visitors.  You will find a mass of birds while walking through sandy heath and mixed woodlands and enjoy exceptional views for miles across The Wash from Dersingham Sea Cliff.

Birdlife here is enormously varied and the site is very much a raptor hotspot.  March is the best time to look out for these particular birds as they fly over the area.  Elevated views are available on the upper path over the bog, the surrounding woods and across to the southern part of the RSPB's Snettisham reserve.  This acts as an unofficial raptor watchpoint and you get the added bonus of wonderful views. Sparrowhawks are usually evident in the air, plus performing Buzzards and Marsh Harriers.  In addition, if you are patient, Goshawks may appear.  Red Kites, Hen Harriers, Rough-legged Buzzards, Ospreys or Peregrines are also possible. Other spring varieties include Wood Larks, Crossbills, Lesser Redpolls, Bramblings and Siskins Breeds.

Dersingham Bog is also a natural habitat for many other forms of wildlife including deer, rabbits, pheasant.  Whenever you visit you are bound to see some sign of the natural world at its best.

Facilities available at Dersingham Bog include a boardwalk, trails, car parking and interpretation boards. The village of Dersingham village has all amenities that you may need on your visit.

Other Norfolk Bird Reserves

The RSPB reserve at Titchwell has both fresh and salt water lagoons and extensive reed beds with avocets and other waders among the many species, while Snettisham Coastal Park and nearby RSPB reserve provide an ideal environment for many migratory species. For a closer view of the birds and seals on Scolt Head, boat trips are available from the nearby coastal villages.

The wide variety of natural habitats along this stretch of coast attract their own particular bird species. By late March the first Chiff-Chaffs are heard in the woods and Early Wheatears are seen along the coast. Marsh Harriers are seen over the reed beds at Titchwell Marsh and Welney Wildfowl & Wetlands Centre attract migrating Waders, Warblers and the Black Tailed Godwit.

During the Summer months you can enjoy the sight and sounds of Common, Little and Sandwich Terns as they fish offshore.  At dusk you can hear the Swifts scream overhead. The only place in the UK where you can see Stone Curlews from a hide is in Weeting Heath National Nature Reserve in the Brecks and another highlight is spotting Woodlarks or possibly a Hobby as it chases dragonflies.

End the day with a walk on the heath and listen for the song of a Nightjar. You may also watch for birds of prey at a Raptor Watch Point or sight the first returning Waders still in their breeding plumage as they stop off on the coast on their way South.  The first South-bound Waders appear in July and some Summer visitors continue to raise their young into October.

Look out for the departure of the Warblers and the first Winter Thrushes feed in the hedgerows following their North Sea crossing. The first of the Wintering Wild Geese begin to appear in Autumn. The Norfolk Coast is famous for seeing Wind Blown Vagrants from the four points of the compass. Occasionally they take up residence - like Sammy, the only resident Black Winged Stilt in the UK who arrived at Titchwell Marsh in 1993.

By far the busiest time of the year for bird watching in Norfolk is the Winter with over a third of a million birds Wintering here. Vast skeins of Pink-Footed Geese from Iceland arrive in Norfolk to spend the coldest months. More than 40% of the world's bird population can be present at this time - this amounts to an incredible 90,000 birds.

Winter is by far the best time to visit The Wash, the UK's primary estuary for wild birds. Walk around the Snettisham RSPB Nature Reserve and see vast swarms of Knot and perhaps a Hunting Barn Owl. Wintering birds of prey which can be seen hunting on the wing including Hen Harriers, Merlin and Peregrine.

As well as the obvious RSPB Bird reserves, Norfolk is home to many other specialist reserves.  Notable among them is Pensthorpe.  With 171 recorded wild bird species and many more that are part of the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust‘s captive breeding and educational programmes, Pensthorpe is an ideal location for both birdwatchers and casual observers. The Reserve is regionally recognised as a breeding site for many species of limited distribution in the UK, such as Little Ringed Plover, Sandmartin, and Marsh Harrier, and also attracts Avocets, Redshank, Greenshank, Lapwings and Bittern, as well as a wealth of warbler species and other summer migrants.

With all this bird life all year round, it is little wonder that Norfolk is a phenomenal attraction for bird watchers the world over.

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