Common Crane Grus grus  The shear size of these birds in flight and the atmospheric trumpeting calls, make this a 'must see' species for many people visiting the region.  Even on the ground these birds are impressive, especially during courtship, when duetting pairs go through a ritualised dancing display, leaping off the ground with raised wings.  The productivity of these birds, over the years has been sporadic and during the breeding season, cranes can be very illusive, but can still be seen if you know where to look!  

Bittern Botaurus stellaris  The 'boom' of the bittern was a sound almost lost in this country, but at present bitterns are doing fairly well, with three nests confirmed at Hickling in 2011.  This does not relate to 3 pairs, however, as males can possibly have up to 5 females and will fight to the death in territorial disputes!  The camouflage the bittern's plumage provides, makes this bird almost mythical when it does break cover and methodically walks into view.  It is still a very sought after species, by those visiting Norfolk.

Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus  Once a very rare raptor and is still by no means widespread.  However, in Norfolk this species is doing well and can be seen quartering the reedbeds and fields and at roost sites in the winter, good numbers have been recorded with over 100 birds  at Hickling!

Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus  Known to most as the Bearded Tit, in fact, it is related to a family of birds called babblers.  Alerted by the 'pinging' calls, these birds can be seen flying over the reedbeds and on still days will perch on the tops of the reeds.  Numbers fluctuate from year to year and are affected by cold winters, when the seeds on which they rely on, during the winter are not accessible.  However, 'beardies' can have up to three broods and around August large parties of these birds may be seen.  

Swallowtail Papilio machaon britannicus Britain's largest butterfly and one of the rarest has its stronghold in Broadland, especially where Milk Parsley Peucedanum palustre grows, which is the favoured food-plant of the larvae.  This butterfly (britannicus) is on the wing towards the end of May and probably the best time to see it is in June.  In some years there is a small second brood, which occurs towards the end of July and early August.

Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles  A red data species and like the Swallowtail, is mainly confined to the broads.  Identified by a yellow triangle (isosceles triangle-hence the latin name) on segment two of the mainly brown abdomen, green eyes and  clear wings, this hawker emerges at the end of May beginning of June.  The Brown Hawker Aeshna grandis, which emerges towards the end of the Norfolk's flight period is the only real confusion species, but has brown veined wings, not clear, as in the Norfolk Hawker.

Water Rail Rallus aquaticus  The 'squealing' noises coming from the reedbeds, which sound a bit like a pig betray the presence of this relatively secretive rail.  A glimpse of the white undertail is sometimes all that is seen, when the rail breaks cover before disappearing again into the reeds.  However, personal observations have revealed that the water rail does like to sun itself at the edge of the reeds, especially after bathing and have been known to go to sleep!

Crane Crane (2) Crane (3) Crane (4) Bittern (2) Bittern (3) Bittern (4) Bittern (5) Bittern Marsh Harrier (3) Marsh Harrier Marsh Harrier (4) Water Rail Water Rail (2) Water Rail (4) Bearded Reedling (2) Bearded Reedling (4) Bearded Reedling Swallowtail Swallowtail (5) Swallowtail (7) Norfolk Hawker 3 (2) 3 (1) 3 (3)

Norfolk's Big 7

Norfolk's must see species are what we will call here the 'Big 7'

Common Crane, Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Bearded Reedling, Swallowtail & Norfolk Hawker.