Most observers tend to arrive an hour or so before dusk but I prefer to arrive well before this. One of the reasons for arriving so early is to be able to watch Chinese water deer in good light. This introduced species has established a sizeable population within the county, centred on the Broads, but seemingly spreading north and west to other sites. Most of the Chinese water deer that I encounter elsewhere within the county are either ones that have been killed in collision with motorcars or are brief glimpses of live individuals disappearing into thick vegetation. Stubb Mill has proved to be one of the best places to get good views of these small deer, perhaps because you are sitting on a bank looking down on the surrounding habitat. Slightly larger in size than a muntjac, the Chinese water deer reminds me of a roe deer in its posture and movements, though smaller in size. First introduced at Woburn Park in the early 1900s, several established populations occur in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk where they favour mixed reedbed and woodland habitats. They are cautious animals and if alarmed will run off, flinging up their hind legs as they go.
Perhaps I have been fortunate in my visits to Stubb Mill. Each time I have been treated to close views of the deer, followed by the spectacle of hen and marsh harriers quartering the ground or loafing about in scrub. These have been accompanied by views of kestrel, sparrowhawk and merlin on virtually every occasion, with the whole afternoon often rounded off by the arrival of the local cranes. Having so many special birds and animals in one place makes this a site that everyone interested in Norfolk’s wildlife should visit at least once.