The RSPB reserve at Snettisham should definitely be visited by anyone who has a love of birds and wildlife. You might have to get up early if you want to see one of the Snettisham wader spectaculars but it’s so worth it.
During the high tides the birds feed on the mudflats, as the tide comes in it pushes them closer to the shore until they all take off and head for the nearby lagoons. We arrived at 5:45am as we were told by the RSPB website. We took a pleasant walk to the viewing area as it was beginning to get light.
When we got to the mudflat we realised the tide was already in! We were disappointed because we thought we’d missed everything. Clearly the strong winds had brought the tide in early. We still continued and eventually stopped to watch the black-headed seagulls, Graylag geese and knots swirl around above the water.
It continued to get light and soon we could see whole flocks of knots out to sea swirling above the water. One of our group who’d been to the wader spectacular before said it was more amazing to see the birds flying than to watch them wade closer to the shore.
We must’ve watched them for near a hour. Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of some oyster catchers or avocets and a few Greylag geese flew past close enough for me to get some lovely photographs but it really was the swirling groups of knots that stole the show.
These are the knots, the light was catching their white bellies beautifully.
Two Greylag Geese.
More knots. Occasionally they’d fly really close to the shore but they spent a lot of their time in huge groups near the horizon. Depending on which way they turned they either looked black or white in the sunlight.
You can see in the above shot the black backs of the knots in the foreground then further back the white dots that are also knots as they turned their undersides towards us. Further in the background you can see Lincolnshire on the other side of the Wash.
The clouds began to break and we were treated to the beautiful skies that Norfolk is so well known for.
Once we’d had our fill of swirling black clouds of knots we headed to the lagoon to see the birds having a bit of a rest. On the way we were distracted by an owl (who I didn’t manage to photograph), we later found out that it was a short-eared owl.
While trying to spot said owl we realised there was a group of hare running around ahead of us. They were quite far away but I managed to take one shot (above) where you can just about see two hares with a goose relaxing in the middle of them.
A flare then went off and we were about to complain about the noise when the flapping of wings surrounded us and all the birds from the nearby lagoon took off into the air.
It was a mixture of knots and oyster catchers. A really spectacular sight.
The birds eventually settled back down and here you can see the pale grey knots next to the black oyster catchers on the shingle bank.
There were also avocets, gulls and cormorants aplenty.
A little black-headed gull was kind enough to pose right outside the hide we were in.
I would highly recommend an early-morning visit to Snettisham. Take binoculars and have a little patience. It’s well worth it.
Take a look at the RSPB Snettisham site for further information. It’s easy to get to if you are staying in Cromer, Sheringham, Cley or any of the surrounding coastal villages and towns. We drove from Roughton and it took about an hour.
The majority of my images were taken with a Canon 70-300mm lens on a Canon 450d. A few of the wider shots were taken with the standard 18-55mm lens. Take a look below for more images from the visit to Snettisham.