Winter Wildlife in Norfolk
Winter Wildlife in Norfolk
If you love wildlife, Norfolk is the ideal location for a winter break. Boundary Stables – a group of five one-storey cottages with wheelchair facilities – is situated in the tiny village of Happisburgh, on the beautiful Norfolk coast. Each warm, well-equipped cottage has a private courtyard, ideal for pets, and ample parking space.
During the winter months, a daytime sighting of a silent, low-flying barn owl is not unusual. Forced to hunt during the day, when voles and mice are taking advantage of a slight rise in temperature, and are foraging for their own food, this basically nocturnal bird can often be spotted sitting on fence posts and trees, listening for its prey. This is the only energy-efficient method of hunting in cold weather, when a long period of flying could very well result in no catch at all. Historically, winter was a time when barn owls hunted in the warmth of farm buildings, where rodents were also seeking shelter. However, recent changes in farming practices, particularly feed storage and rodent control, mean that barn life is now not such an easy option.
Norfolk names for the barn owl (Tyto alba, meaning “white owl”) include hushwing and billy wix – rather pleasant names, compared to certain other monikers, such as ghost owl, demon owl, death owl, hissing owl, screech owl, and hobgoblin!
Each year, approximately a quarter of the world’s population of pink-footed geese (Anser brachyrhynchus, meaning “short-billed goose”) spend the winter in Norfolk. Roosting in large groups on remote parts of the coast, these extremely noisy birds fly inland at dawn, en masse, to feed; at dusk, they fly back to their coastal lodgings, filling the air with their honking cries.
For sightings of barn owls, pink-footed geese, and many other bird species, why not visit RSPB Strumpshaw Fen (24 miles from Happisburgh); or Salthouse Marshes (28 miles from Happisburgh), on the north Norfolk coast, cared for by Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT). Hickling Broad is another NWT reserve where a wide variety of winter wildlife flourishes, and is just nine miles from Boundary Stables. All of these reserves are open from dawn to dusk, all year long.
For the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus, meaning “hooked-nose sea pig”), winter is the busiest time of the year. Between November and January, heavily pregnant cows haul out onto the beach, ready to give birth. The new-born pups weigh around 14kg and are covered in soft white fur.
The UK is home to around half of the world’s grey seal population, and in Norfolk, there are some fantastic opportunities to observe these lovely animals in the wild. Horsey, home to a large colony of grey seals, is less than nine miles from Happisburgh. At Blakeney Point, home to the largest seal colony in England, more than 2,000 grey seal pups are born each winter. Daily boat trips from the village of Blakeney, about 28 miles from Boundary Stables, enable you to view the seals close-up, without invading their territory.
A holiday at Boundary Stables doesn’t have to be full of exertion and outdoor activity. Norfolk is as rich in history and entertainment as it is in animal wildlife.