by elizabeth | Sep 12, 2014 |

Bird Watching on the Suffolk Coast


With thanks to Ian Barthorpe of RSPB Minsmere

With its wide variety of habitats - encompassing woodland, heathland, reedbed, saltmarsh, estuaries, shingle beaches and low cliffs - the Suffolk Coast is one of the UK's prime destinations for bird watching.

The list of species you might see here is vast and the prospect of watching a magnificent black and white avocet as it wades through the water, or beautiful bearded tit flitting speedily over the reeds, is not to be missed!

RSPB Minsmere

The RSPB has several nature reserves along the Suffolk Coast, the best known of which is Minsmere. An RSPB reserve for almost 70 years, Minsmere pioneered the use of observation hides and management of wetland areas and can boast the fact that the avocet (which, incidentally, features on the organisation’s logo) returned to this very site in 1947, having been extinct in Britain until then.

With its woodlands, grasslands, heaths and beaches, Minsmere is a mecca for birdwatchers throughout the year. Spring and summer are a great time to see avocets, marsh harriers and bitterns, and the spring and autumn migration seasons are especially exciting times.

A visit to Minsmere is about more than just birds, with an incredible variety of other wildlife present, from majestic red deer to beautiful butterflies, microscopic fungi to mighty oaks.

Don't rule out a visit in winter either - not only is this a very atmospheric time to explore the county of Suffolk, but take yourself down to the shallow lagoons and you can observe the beautiful spectacle of wading birds and waterfowl which thrive in this habitat.

For some beautiful holiday cottages near Minsmere, see Red Sails and Amrose Cottage in Blythburgh, Apple Store and High Oaks in Westleton.

RSPB North Warren

RSPB North Warren, near Aldeburgh, comprises grazing marshes, reedbeds, heathland and woodland. It is populated by thousands of wildfowl in the winter months and is a super place to see breeding marsh harriers, hobbies and warblers in summertime, not to mention butterflies and dragonflies.

Stay in Aldeburgh

RSPB Havergate Island

RSPB Havergate Island, a small island in the River Ore, accessible by boat from Orford Quay, is an important breeding place for gulls, common terns and avocets. It is also home to a thriving population of brown hares, though numbers were seriously reduced by the surge tide in December 2013. Access to Havergate is via RSPB boats on the first Saturday of each month and selected event weekends, and trips must be pre-booked by contacting the Minsmere visitor centre.

Orford is a delightful place to stay. Try Pump Cottage, or Quay View.

Other RSPB Reserves

Other RSPB reserves on the Suffolk coast are off the beaten track, but worth a visit. RSPB Boyton and Hollesley Marshes are two coastal wetlands with important populations of breeding wading birds, wintering ducks and various insects in the lower Alde Estuary. A small car park at Boyton Marshes provides access, though it’s a long walk to the newly-created coastal lagoon at Hollesley.

Farther up the estuary is RSPB Snape, where a large freshwater wetland is being created. There is no access at present, but the nearby Snape Warren is a superb place to look for heathland wildlife such as nightjars, woodlarks and Dartford warblers.

North of Dunwich, Dingle Marshes is a large wetland reserve managed jointly by the RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust and Natural England. The reedbeds are home to bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits, and path along the edge of Dunwich Forest is a good place to look for butterflies. A full 4.5 miles circuit includes a long section of shingle beach, so this reserve is only for the more adventurous wildlife enthusiast.

Stay near the reserves: at Bridge Cottage in Dunwich, Box Cottage in Snape, or Perrinott House in Hollesley.

If you would like more information about Suffolk’s RSPB nature reserves please telephone 01728 648281 or email


Now it's time to get out and get birdwatching! Click here to read our article on 10 species to get you started, and where to go to see them.

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