A chilly Sunday afternoon in December might not sound like the ideal time to visit a nature reserve but it was perfect for our little family.
There was no one to mind as Freya’s volume control went a bit haywire when we were sat in the otherwise empty hide and she spotted a heron. Or when she had a temper tantrum when the sun started to set and we told her it was time to go home – she apparently thought we were glamping again and spending in the night in the hide.
Poor bean, she really loves being outside – and Hickling Broad, which is managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT), is an exceptional place to do it.
Among other things, this year-round wildlife haven is apparently one of the best sites in Norfolk to hear the strange booming call of the endangered Bittern (listen by clicking here). You might even see one, if you’re very lucky.
I remember writing a feature about this secretive bird many years ago which involved spending an exhilarating (if cold) spring afternoon standing amid the reeds hoping to hear/see one. Just as we were packing up to leave one flew right over our heads.
According to the Hickling Broad section on the trust’s website:
In 1911 the naturalist Emma Turner found a nesting pair of bitterns in extensive reedbeds – the first confirmation that the species had bred in the UK since 1886.
Last Sunday we were just pleased to be enjoying the fresh air in such a beautiful place. With an energetic three-year-old in tow I didn’t really have much hope of spotting anything but as well as Freya’s heron we also saw some egrets for the first time.
The sun was already setting by this point so it wasn’t the ideal time for me (with my limited skills) to try and take bird photos.
While the reserve has been in NWT’s care since 1945, it does not own it in its entirety and earlier this year 655 acres of the Hickling Broad Estate were put on the market.
The trust reached agreement to buy the land, which makes up almost half of its reserve, for £2.5m. While funding of £1.5m has already been secured, NWT needs a further £1m by March next year to purchase this nationally and internationally important wetland for wildlife.
If you’d like to contribute please click here.
Wishing you a great countdown to Christmas.