Raptor Roost experience at Hickling Broad

Blog post by Rachel Frain & Jo Wright (guest author) on 28 Dec, 2018

It’s been a wonderful season so far at NWT Hickling Broad. Lots of people have come to experience our Raptor Roost, one of winter’s great spectacles.

Jo Wright visited the reserve with her niece, she had such an amazing time that she wrote to us, to share their experience. It’s a beautiful piece of writing that captures a winters day at Hickling Broad and she’s agreed that we can share it. We hope you enjoy reading the account of their visit as much as we did. Maybe it will encourage you to come and see for yourself what Hickling Broad has to offer?

Starling roost, by Brian McFarlane

Common cranes, by Jeremy Bone

One afternoon I went with my niece Laura to visit the Raptor Roost for the first time. I wasn’t sure what the roost would be exactly; an area where birds roosted in trees perhaps? From the NWT car park we followed signs up the lane towards Stubbs Mill, with an expanse of farmland on one side and marsh on the other. Arriving at the mill there was a raised earth bank on which you can stand, giving a panoramic view over the reedbeds. This was it.

We watched as the setting sun filled the sky with stripes of orange and pink, and saw several marsh harriers circling far away. Then, in the middle distance, a pair of large birds flew side by side, from left to right, across the reedbeds. I hadn’t seen the cranes before, but the pencil thin silhouette and their huge black and white wings were impressive and unmistakable. If only all birds were as easy to identify!

We stayed until the sun was going down, before returning homewards down the track. The reeds glistened silver against the setting sun and the pale coloured ponies and chestnut red cattle grazed contentedly. Suddenly a hare popped out onto the track from the side ditch and on seeing us, it turned and disappeared, giving us a brief but tantalising glimpse of this special animal.

Starling roost, by Brian McFarlane

Starling roost, by Brian McFarlane

Content with our visit to the roost we were approaching the car park when I noticed a cluster of birds flying above the trees. "Oh", I said, "that looks rather like a small murmuration". As I said it we noticed a group of birds, flying fast and low across the marsh in front of us, heading like missiles, directly towards the main group. "Here come some more", said my niece, as more birds flew in from all directions. Some birds came from behind us, passing low over our heads, so close that we could hear their wings beating in a swoosh of disturbed air. Within a minute the murmuration had doubled in size and we held our breath as we watched it curving in waves like smoke silhouetted against the pink sky. Suddenly, on an invisible cue, the entire flock dropped as one, out of sight down to their roosting place. It happened in a split second, leaving the sky empty and the image of what we had just seen still resonating in our eyes. "That was saving the best till last" said Laura.


Rachel Frain is the Visitor Centre Coordinator at NWT Hickling Broad.



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