Birding At Costessey H.P.E

With its varied habitat of wetland meadows, reeds, woodlands and river, Costessey House Private Estate is home to a similarly varied array of birds and other wildlife. It’s geographical position means that it acts as both a funnel to migrating birds (albeit mostly on a local scale) and to an array of marshland, scrub and woodland breeding species. During the summer months particularly, it can boast three species of owl and 6-7 species of warbler.

The following gives a relatively thorough overview of the the birds and other widlife etc. that are present on site season by season. This is regularly updated as I continue to learn more about the patch and see more birds there.

Residents/Regular Species:

Kingfisher – a breeding pair are reliable throughout the year though are more obvious in the summer

Nuthatch – a pair favour Costessey House

Barn Owl – Regular in the area, a pair can be seen hunting Costessey Marsh or occasionally Mill Meadow from mid evening onwards.

Tawny Owl – Can be heard most nights, particularly favouring Drayton Woods.

Sparrowhawk – A pair breed in the area, although are quite irregular.

Kestrel – A pair are seen regularly and have bred a few times; they raised at least 2 young in 2012.

Buzzard – a pair breed in the area and regularly hunt over Costessey Marsh

Mute Swan – In 2011 a resident pair were first noticed raising 5 young, which soon fledged. As of 2014 the pair continues to breed, producing at least two cygnets per year.

Grey Heron – A resident pair with at least one young roam round the area and are seen mostly on Mill Meadow and Costessey Marsh

Pheasant – Several pairs in the area. At least one pair have been known to breed, seen along Costessey Marsh

Moorhen – A few can usually be seen on Wensum at Costessey Marsh or along Fishermen’s Trail. Up to 2 or 3 young have been seen hence they breed along the Wensum.

Jay – Usually 5 or 6 can be seen per outing to the patch of this common corvid in Norfolk, a few pairs breed.

Stock Dove – Several favour Old Costessey Fields.

Green Woodpecker – at least a few pairs breed in Drayton Woods, can be seen anywhere on the patch.

Great-spotted Woodpecker – a pair, usually favouring the trees around Witches’ Field and Fishermen’s Trail.

Bullfinch – A few are present all year round, though numbers increase in winter.

Black-headed Gull – Attracted to the area in wet conditions. There is normally a congregation of 15-20  birds on Costessey Marsh in winter. Floods on Mill Field and Fishermen’s Field can attract in excess of 100 birds.

Reed Bunting – At least 6 pairs are present, seen daily mostly by the Fishermen’s Trail or Costessey Marsh. Lesser numbers in winter but still present.


Spring and Summer visitors:

Little Owl – a pair favours the paddocks from June onwards. Breeding has not been confirmed, but up to 3 birds have been involved in the past.

Hobby – a pair are intermittent but present from spring through until late August

Grasshopper Warbler – a pair are present on site

Reed Warbler – recorded annually on Fishermen’s Trail, peak time for single birds is June-July.

Sedge Warbler – 8 pairs ranging from Fishermen’s Trail to Costessey Marsh

Chiffchaff – 7 pairs breed throughout the site, many around Mill Lane

Willow Warbler – a pair breed at the end of Costessey Marsh

Blackcap – 6 pairs breed throughout the site, mainly in and around Mill Lane

Whitethroat –  9 pairs breed throughout the site

Swallow – breeds in the barns at Mill Cottages

Swift – present in good numbers

House Martin – several favour the area


Winter visitors:

Redwing – Largely attracted to the thickets and bushes along Mill Lane. Most birds tend to move west, with at least 10 or normally were seen per visit in winter 2012. The largest number seen so far was a flock of 100 along Mill Lane during the October 2012 fall of thrushes.

Fieldfare – As per Redwing. Numbers have peaked at 31 in February 2013 near Hidden Pool.

Snipe – In wet conditions, this species is flushed in single figures from Costessey Marsh or along Fisherman’s Trail. Occasionally irruptive, with the record standing at 50 in a day in April 2013. Outside of good conditions and winter, difficult.


Infrequent/rarer species on site:

  • Lesser Whitethroat has been present in late April/early May in 2012 and 2013, and Garden Warbler in June 2013.
  • Almost all waders are uncommon, but 9 species have been recorded: Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper (twice), Golden Plover, Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatcher, as well as the more regular Snipe.
  • An adult YELLOW-LEGGED GULL was present for half an hour with Lesser Black-Backed Gulls at Mill Field on 18th July 2012 when the field was flooded and attracting decent numbers of gulls.
  • In February 2013, 6 CRANES and a BITTERN were noted at Costessey Marsh, the Cranes NW over on 2nd February and the Bittern briefly on the marsh on 5th February.



  • Pipistrell Bats can be seen at dusk, roosting in barn at back of cottage. Serotine has also been noted.
  • Up to 7 Roe Deer can be seen on Drayton Meadows and Mill Meadow
  • Muntjac Deer is occasional; with a pair seen on Mill Meadow in July 2012 and one in February 2013
  • A pair of Fox have a den in the area
  • Otter fish irregularly along the river: April seems to be the peak period as they have been seen annually at this time
  • Banded Demoiselles, Emeralds and several other damselflies and dragonflies are present in the summer months.


Costessey House Private Estate has proved itself to be a good place to patch and go birding and for wildlife as a whole. It consistently demonstrates its potential as an inland, largely waterless site to host some decent quality birds, both those passing through and those residing in the area. Long may it continue!

For pics of birds/wildlife taken on site, see here


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