Wader spectacular

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1 year 11 months ago - 1 month 1 week ago #87253 by
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Under normal high tide conditions the expansive mudflats of The Wash remain partly exposed leaving many islands of refuge for waders to roost until the next low tide again exposes their feeding grounds and even with the best of spotting scopes the birds would be just too distant to be seen properly. During high spring tide, however, the mudflats are entirely covered and the tide pushes well up the flanking shingle beaches forcing the waders to roost onshore. In the winter months this results in thousands of wintering Arctic waders flocking inland. At RSPB Snettisham in Norfolk these high spring tides only occur in daylight hours perhaps 4 or 5 times during the entire winter and one still has the vagaries of the British weather to contend with on these few opportunities. Last year I went to Freiston Shore on the Lincolnshire side of The Wash only to be disappointed with the poor numbers of waders present. Yesterday, with the highest spring tide of the year due at 06:30 only 10 minutes after sunrise, with the weather set fair and only a light breeze predicted I set off at 03:30 for the 3 hour drive to this spot in Norfolk. I arrived just before 07:00 and after a 30 minute walk to the wader viewing hide was not definitely not disappointed.

At high spring tide this is what The Wash looks like. At Snettisham an almost millpond only 15cm or so deep stretching to the horizon, and a few Eurasian Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Common Shelduck looking rather lost in that vast expanse of water.

On what little of the shingle beach that remained was the odd Eurasian Oystercatcher, Red Knot and Grey Plover.

Arriving at the hide and setting about unpacking all my gear I scanned the banks of the old gravel pit (only 100m inland from the shingle) and saw what I thought was 2 groups of Eurasian Oystercatcher to my left.

On raising my binoculars I discovered that between the oystercatchers there was a seething mass of roosting Red Knot.

Along the near edge of that group I counted some 150 individuals. This would mean that in that small area there was likely to be +/-15,000 birds!

At the water's edge a few other species managed to find some room, like these Dunlin - the 2 smaller birds next to water on the left and another 2 just in the water at the right....

...and Ruddy Turnstone. There are another 2 Dunlin dead centre.

Further along the pit there were groups of Pied Avocet and Great Cormorant as well as a few Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot and Mallard

Here are two adult cormorants in courtship plumage - the white patch on the flank and the white head markings are only present during courtship.

Black-headed Gulls were the dominant gull, outnumbering the European Herring Gull 100:1

Here is one with a Ruddy Turnstone...

...and two adults, one with full breeding head colour, the other transitional from the winter state.

There was a continuous goose air traffic while I was in the hide - all the common Greylag Goose

as well as the occasional duck. Here a pair of Common Shelduck female leading and male behind.

First to leave were the cormorants, then the avocets. When the first group of knot headed seawards....

...I headed off to see if I could get any shots of the rest as they left.

No more water to be seen, just a flat muddy expanse to the horizon rapidly filling with waders as they came back from their respective roosting sites. The avocets were already there...

soon to joined by the knots.

On my walk back to the car park I encountered numerous high flying flocks, this one I believe European Golden Plover...

..and other species on the mudlfats that I had not encountered at the hide, such as Eurasian Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Ringed Plover and many more Dunlin.

All in all a very satisfying day, and one that will certainly have me perusing the tide tables, sunrise/sunset charts and weather forecasts for the optimum Snettisham spectacular next winter.

Last Edit: 1 month 1 week ago by nkgray. Reason: Updating image links

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  • gordon
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1 year 11 months ago #87254 by gordon
gordon replied the topic: Re: Wader spectacular
Looks like a really nice spot there Neil!

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  • Peregrinedive
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1 year 11 months ago #87255 by Peregrinedive
Peregrinedive replied the topic: Re: Wader spectacular
Wow Neil, loved reading your report!

Especially loved your picture of the knots!!

Thanks for sharing this!

Kind regards,

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