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Seasonal highlights

Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.


Migrants such as wheatears and sand martins arrive from their winter homes, and are regularly seen along the beach. Common terns look for nest sites on the lagoons, while hundreds of black-headed gulls take up residence on the islands. Wading birds in their colourful breeding plumage pass through on their way to the Arctic, alongside avocets, oystercatchers and ringed plovers which nest on the reserve. Barn owls can been seen at dawn and dusk hunting over the saltmarsh and surrounding fields.

Barn owlOystercatcherRinged plover - breeding plumageWheatear - male
Barn owlOystercatcherRinged ploverWheatear


Avocets parade their newly-hatched chicks around the reserve, while common terns and black-headed gulls busily ferry food to and from their young. Butterflies such as peacocks and painted ladies fly over the grassland. Yellow-horned poppies and viper's bugloss flower on the shingle. Later in the summer, flocks of knots wheel in vast numbers over The Wash at sunset.

AvocetBlack-headed gull - adult in summer plumageCommon tern - adultKnot - winter plumage
AvocetBlack-headed gullCommon ternKnot


Thousands of thrushes and finches migrate overhead, returning from their summer breeding grounds. Wader numbers build up during autumn migration, with tens of thousands regularly present, busily feeding on The Wash, and regularly displaced by the incoming tide. Wigeon and brent geese start to arrive back from breeding grounds, calling noisily to each other.

Bar-tailed godwit - non-breeding plumageBrent goose - dark-bellied formFieldfareRedwing
Bar-tailed godwitBrent gooseFieldfareRedwing


Huge numbers of waterfowl gather on the lagoons and out in The Wash, while peregrines and hen harriers actively hunt on the saltmarsh. Vast numbers of pink-footed geese roost each night on the mudflats, flying inland at dawn to feast on the remains of the sugar beet harvest. Goldeneyes also gather in large numbers on the lagoon, and begin displaying as spring approaches.

Goldeneye - maleHen harrier - malePeregrine - adult Pink-footed goose
GoldeneyeHen harrierPeregrinePink-footed goose

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 52.86822,0.45139
  • Grid reference: TF650328
  • Nearest town: Hunstanton, Norfolk
  • County: Norfolk
  • Country: England

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