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Special Autumn and Winter Birds to look out for in East Anglia

bird watching in winter

No need to travel far and wide to go birding, some spectacular birds can be seen right here in Norfolk and Suffolk. Thanks to the variety of beautiful and varied habitats, we’re able to attract some rare visitors throughout the autumn and winter months, with many different species of birds making their home for the winter. 

Our landscapes include the stunning, fresh waterways of the Norfolk Broads, sheltered coastal dunes and nourishing marshes in the North. Locals are fortunate to catch sightings of the wildlife which sets up home here regularly, and many birders from around the country make the effort to travel to Norfolk and Suffolk to spot these for themselves. 

Below we have outlined some of the remarkable species you may find, as well as some of the scarcer and less expected rarities, and details of when you can expect to find them – giving you the best chance to witness these birds for yourself. 

September

  1. Leach’s Petrel If you are lucky enough to spot one of these tiny but hardy seabirds, you are in for a treat. They’re small in size (storm petrels can be mistaken for migrating House Martins at a glance!) and with an almost entirely black body, the clearest way to identify them is by looking for the white rump (a feature they share with the closely related European Storm Petrel). They spend most of their time out at sea, only returning to land to breed at night, so you’ll want to head to the coastline for this one!

Where they’ve been spotted: Set yourself up in one of Sheringham’s seated shelters along the west promenade, the seats are lower than the seawall and up to 16 of these amazing birds have been recorded on days where we’ve experienced strong North and North Westerly winds.

  1. Red-Backed ShrikeOnce a breeding bird in East Anglia, the Red-backed Shrike is now only seen on passage. These birds can be seen throughout autumn and are a regular and welcome feature of the east coast during migration. 

The typical Shrike features include a black eye mask. Other than this feature, the colouring of a Shrike differs depending on whether they’re male or female. Female Red-Backed Shrikes have a more common, brown upperpart, whereas the males are unmistakable with their blue grey heads and bright chestnut back.

Where they’ve been seen: 

  • Walsey Hills NOA, east of Cley-next-the-Sea – a female Shrike was spotted eating insects
  • Near Southwold Golf Club in Southwold, Suffolk 
  • Worth checking any coastal scrub in autumn
  1. WryneckThis species of bird is small and similar in size to the Sparrow. The Wryneck is a somewhat atypical member of the Woodpecker family and, in common with its cousin the Green Woodpecker, feeds on ants, meaning you’ll often find them hopping around on the ground. They feature amazing cryptic brown and buff textured mottling, and have an eye-catching black band running down the back of the head to the neck. Birders can find these in the autumn, along the eastern and southern coasts.

Where they’ve been spotted:

  • Blakeney Park, known as the Wryneck hotspot 
  • Felixstowe Suffolk – Landguard Bird Observatory 

October

  1. Yellow Browed Warbler – It’s all in the name, when aiming to find this diminutive bird, look for the striking yellow brow along with green mantle and two prominent yellow wing bars. Interestingly, these birds breed in Siberia, and are seen in the coastal trees and shrubs when they arrive on the East Coast. These birds are a must to see, having travelled an almighty journey to get here, they’re a delightful sight.

Where they’ve been spotted:

  • Norfolk Stiffkey Woods and Wells Woods
  • Lowestoft Dunes

  1. Rough-Legged Buzzard – This bird of prey resembles the Common Buzzard. One of the best ways to tell them apart is the amount of time they spend hovering. The Rough-Legged Buzzard hovers more regularly than the more familiar Common Buzzard. 

Feature wise, they have a contrasting black tip to their white tail, longer wings, and are generally paler – especially juveniles but beware pale Common Buzzards! They also sport heavily feathered legs (hence the name), which common Buzzards do not. 

You can spot only a handful of these birds of prey along the East Coast marshes and farmland in most winters. 

Where they’ve been spotted:

  • Sedgeford and Choseley, Norfolk
  • Holkham Pines Norfolk, seen cruising over the pines and dunes 

November & December

  1. Little Auk – A small seabird which can be seen flying low over the sea in the winter, particularly in early November. You’ll need a keen eye for this one as they’re hard to spot due to their rapid flight! 

This little bird is a smaller relative of the Puffin and has a black back and dark underwings, with a white belly. As the name suggests, it has small features, a stubby bill, and a short neck and tail. 

Where they’ve been spotted:

  • Cley-Next-The-Sea beach and car park 
  • Salthouse, Norfolk
  1. Waxwing – This winter visitor provides some vibrant colour to the otherwise drab season. Waxwings have a reddish-brown neck, a distinctive black mask and throat,  contrasting with the white, yellow and orange dotted through their wings and tail tips. 

You can experience the first British arrival of these birds in the winter in East Anglia, however these birds love to move inland in search of food, so you stand a good chance of seeing them slightly further inland too. 

Where they’ve been spotted:

  • Burnham Market, Norfolk – they migrate here annually 
  • Copdock Interchange Retail Park, Ipswich – they flocked to the Tesco Store here, to feast on the berry bushes

All in all, places like Norfolk and Suffolk enable avid birders to continue their hobby all year round, however extraordinary birds such as these need to be observed in the best quality. 
Here at Viking Optical Centres, we supply a range of affordable, expert binoculars and scopes, perfect for spotting birds in all types of weather. Browse our range today!