• Rachael Bentley

A wild goose chase in Norfolk

Autumn and winter provide some pretty amazing spectacles in the Cley marshes.


I’ve recently been on a trip to Norfolk and I went with high expectations. But it wasn’t quite love at first sight for me.

"I like hills and trees and at first glance there’s nothing there."

It’s a sparsely populated vast flatness. But you can’t beat an empty beach, whatever the time of year it is.



With an enthusiastic birder beside me, I soon discovered the attraction, as we arrived in Salthouse. The flat landscape delivers big skies and it’s bleakness is beautiful. The wind was invigorating and everywhere I looked was the sense of space. The lack of people and the sheer quietness was eerie but far from being lifeless, the landscape was alive with birds.



Salthouse is a stone’s throw from the Cley Marshes and just a ten minute walk to the sea. In a short stroll, we saw geese and snow buntings. Neighbouring Cley gave us marsh harriers, a hen harrier and plenty of waders, but I was really hoping for a starling murmuration.




We did see smaller flocks of starlings coming down to roost in the reeds, right beside us but there was no dramatic performance. A warden at RSPB Strumpshaw told us that they hadn’t seen murmurations there either, probably due to the unseasonably warm weather. Murmurations tend to occur when smaller flocks join together, forming super flocks, with thousands of birds roosting together to keep warm.



If this winter does turn cold, I’ll have an excuse to go back and try again with the starling search, but I wasn’t disappointed. Birds like this little egret and the breathtaking scenery have made me see Norfolk in an entirely new light.