Birds take a rest at Snettisham RSPB by Stella Gooch

Snettisham RSPB Reserve and Other Local Bird Habitats

West Norfolk is renowned as a great part of the UK to see an abundance of bird life throughout the year as there are numerous bird reserves to visit. Winter is by far the best time to visit The Wash which is the UK's primary estuary for wild birds.

Visitors to Snettisham RSPB need not have an interest in bird life.  The environment offers a great many natural wildlife and fantastic vistas in endless tranquility.  Snettisham RSPB Reserve is situated in part of Snettisham Common, The Registered Common CL378, is 57+ hectares stretching from the Wolferton Boundary to the Car Park Beach Road in Snettisham, with shingle rights given to the inhabitants of Snettisham in 1766 for their own use. The reserve offers the same peacefulness and natural wildlife habitats found in Dersingham Bog and Wolferton.  Distant views of Snettisham church spire can be seen from the reserve so it is easy to imagine how this famous landmark guided boats on The Wash into the ports of Snettisham and Kings Lynn.  

Snettisham is located on The Wash which provides a home for in excess of 300,000 birds.  Of this number a good third can find their way to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Snettisham. Walk around the Snettisham reserve and see vast numbers of no less than seven different species of bird including grey plover, knot, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, sanderling, pink-footed goose and shelduck. Wintering birds of prey which can be seen hunting on the wing including Hen Harriers, Merlin and Peregrine.

Primary bird habitats found on the Snettisham reserve are shingle beach, brackish lagoon, intertidal mudflat and saltmarsh. The shingle beach is home to several rare plants and invertebrates, and is used for nesting by Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers.

The lagoons found here were formed as a result of shingle extraction for concrete.  These beautiful formations currently sustain many rare invertebrates and a huge number of birds. The mudflats and the saltmarsh attract and feed tens of thousands of birds throughout the year. The largest influx of birdlife is particularly apparent between autumn and spring. Many of the birds that use Snettisham stay for only part of the year. However, there are a few species who can be found all year round. Among these is the Barn Owl, which you may observe hunting over the fields and saltmarsh at dawn and dusk.

Snettisham Nature Reserve is always open and is free to visitors.  The reserve has its own car parking which is also free (the beach car park is not free). Please note that the car park has a height restriction of 2.2m. There is limited parking available outside the barrier.

The Rotary and Shire Hides are linked by a concrete path. Less able-bodied visitors may drive close to the Rotary Hide, but must contact the reserve office for a permit first.

The bird reserve is clearly signposted down Beach Road from the A149 Snettisham and Dersingham bypass. Continue down Beach Road for about 1 mile (1.6 km), and the reserve is signposted on your left.

Visitors should, of course, check the weather prior to visiting the reserve and dress appropriately.  Reserve paths can be uneven in places and during wet weather, the reserve paths may also be slippery.  Good strong shoes or boots with good grip are essential.  Venturing into the lagoons, mudflats or saltmarsh areas is to be avoided at all times.

As well as the obvious RSPB bird reserves, Norfolk is home to many other specialist reserves such as Sculthorpe Moor near Fakenham.  Pensthorpe is a lovely day out for the family where an exceptional collection of birdlife and BBC Springwatch has been filmed from there for many years.  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. By far the busiest time of the year for bird watching in Norfolk is October through to May 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.

Between early April and mid-July, ringed plovers and oystercatchers nest on the beach.  Please avoid walking on Snettisham Beach at this time as their eggs are camouflaged and very hard to see.

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