Freedom is fluid
Birds rotate in the milky sky
Inspired by the inconclusive
Leaving at 4.30am was a bit of a shock to the system but both Sylvie and I were optimistic that the birds we were going to photograph would perform on cue! The RSPB nature reserve at Snettisham is in north Norfolk is close to King’s Lynn and Sandringham. It overlooks The Wash. It is home to a variety of birds, pink footed swans and raptors but we were hoping to see thousands of knots and a few hundred oyster catchers. These birds enjoy the mud flats only flying inland to the gravel pits if there is a very high tide.
We arrived at 6am to find that a few other twitchers and photographers were already parked up. The sky was a pale pink and it was obvious there was going to be a wonderful sunrise. Gathering our gear we set off, in just above freezing conditions, to walk the two miles to where the birds would fly over at high tide.
As we arrived, the sky darkened from pink to red and the sun rose on the tree line as groups of birds in the distance swirled around the skies over the water. There was not really enough light to catch them in total focus but we had a try. Silhouetted against the remains of the pink sky they were mesmerisingly fast and smooth as they swooped and dived, making ever changing patterns of black dots.
As the tide rose the knots began to fly over us towards the gravel pit. As the light caught them they turned into a firework display of golden rain. It was a stunning sight that we were so lucky to see. The oyster catchers, with much longer legs, delayed their take offs until they could stand no longer before finally making their way to join the knots.
We walked to the furthest hide by the gravel pit joining several other photographers who once again all seemed to have much longer lenses than both of us. Undeterred we sat hoping something might spook the thousands of knots so we could capture them in our lenses. Sylvie spotted a rather grumpy looking egret, it was the first I had been able to photograph.
After a wait of about forty five minutes something scared the birds and they all took off at once. I still can’t understand how they did it without hurting each other. It looked like total mayhem.
By this time we were rather tired and cold but delighted we had seen such an amazing display from the birds. We walked back to the car looking forward to a great British breakfast at Arbuckle’s.
It wasn’t until we both looked at our photographs on the computer screen that we realised there were also many godwits in amongst the knots. They have much longer beaks and bigger bodies. Snettisham is a fantastic place to visit and watch this truly stunning spectacle. It’s definitely worth adding it to your ‘bucket’ list despite the need to get up extremely early!