Otter and kingfisher spotting in the National Park

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While we cannot guarantee that you will see these notoriously shy species, there have been recent confirmed sightings at the following beauty spots. Plus, they make a lovely trip out in the Broads National Park, otter, kingfisher, or not.


Our advice for spotting otters is to wrap up warm, pack a camping chair, a picnic, a flask of tea, your favourite book and settle down in one of these beautiful spots. They’re most active at dusk and dawn.

Whether you see an otter or not, you’ll head home with the positive effects of being immersed in nature all around you.

Eurasian otter
Eurasian otter. Be very patient and you might spot one.

Did you know?

  • Although the Eurasian otter is native to the UK, populations during the 1950’s and 60’s were almost decimated due to pesticide and environmental pollution. Otter populations have slowly recovered after toxic pesticides were banned and they are now a protected species.
  • Baby otters are called pups. Newborn pups need lots of attention, and will stay close to their mothers. Although they can float they are not able to swim until they are around two months old.
  • River otters can hold their breath for around 8 minutes.
  • Otters have the thickest fur of all mammals, which not only helps to keep them warm but also to keep them buoyant in the water by trapping air close to their skin.
  • Otters know how to enjoy themselves and when they’re not sleeping, eating or grooming they can be seen playing. They will sometimes use the banks of rivers to slide down and like to chase their own tails and wrestle each other.
  • The collective noun for otters are raft, romp, family, bevy and lodge.
@Luke Massey
Otters love to play, swim and are great at hiding.

Where to spot them

Barton Broad
On foot - otters have been spotted recently around Gaye’s Staithe. See this guide for a walk from Irstead Staithe to Gaye’s Staithe (2 3/4 miles (4.5 km) 1.5 hours)

By boat - around pleasure-island, at the top of Barton Broad, along the River Ant. Google Maps link

River Ant
Along the River Ant, towards Stalham. Google Maps link

River Thurne
Around the Womack Dyke area, on the River Thurne. Walk along the footpath from Hunters Yard in Ludham and you may well spot them along the quieter reaches of the River Thurne.

Strumpshaw Fen
A family of otters have been seen from the Reception Hide, at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB. Advice for spotting them is to look out for when the geese all take off at once!


No other UK bird has an electric blue head and tail, with a contrasting orange underneath, making this iconic bird easy to spot as it darts at lightning speed along the rivers of the National Park. Autumn is one of the best times to spot them when the rivers and broads are quieter.

Keen Kingfisher spotters should get up early as the best time to see them is at dawn when they are most active.

They fly so fast but are hard to miss.

Did you know?

  • Kingfishers mostly eat fish (minnows and sticklebacks) but also aquatic insects, freshwater shrimps and tadpoles.
  • They prefer rivers with lots of small fish and rivers with vertical sandy banks in which they can excavate a nest hole.
  • In winter, especially in spells of hard weather, they will move to estuaries and coastal creeks where water remains unfrozen.
  • Kingfishers dart into the water with their eyes closed, so are effectively fishing ‘blind’ but thanks to an aerodynamic beak, they hit the water at such speed and with little splash, that they don’t need to see in order to catch fish.
  • The shape of the kingfisher’s aerodynamic beak inspired the design of Japanese high-speed Shinkansen trains, so as to maximise their speed and efficiency.
  • In spring, a male kingfisher looking to attract a female, will approach her with a fish in his mouth as an offering but will eat it himself if he’s unsuccessful. He may have to repeat this courtship ritual many times until he finds a willing mate.
  • Kingfishers don’t like to tidy up after themselves; typically, their nests become littered with droppings, pellets and fish bones.

Will you spot the bright blue colours of the kingfisher as it darts past?

Where to spot them

If you head out into the quieter parts of the national park and hire a small day boat or canoe, you are likely to be rewarded with seeing a kingfisher – although we cannot guarantee this!


Kingfishers have been spotted around Wayford Bridge and Tylers Cut in Dilham. Plan your canoe trip (PDF). Banks Boats also hire canoes.

Stalham and Wayford

Hire a day boat from Richardson's or Wayford Marine and head out into quieter waters.


Take a wander around the quiet paths of Wheatfen Nature Reserve. Not recommended if its been raining as the reserve may flood.

We hope you are rewarded with a sighting of these notoriously hard-to-spot species, or if not you at least have a memorable visit to the beautiful national park.

If you do spot an otter or kingfisher, why not contact us and tell us the location. Send us a message on Facebook or Twitter and if you were quick enough to catch them on camera we might share your photo.