Waders on the Wash
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Snettisham Spectacular’ the massed waders that feed on The Wash offer visitors a chance to witness a truly World class birdwatching event. Outside the height of the breeding season, tens of thousands of waders feed on the mudflats of The Wash, their activity dictated by the twice-daily ebb and flow of the tide. On a rising tide, flocks are pushed further and further south, eventually congregating on the bars and saltmarsh adjacent to Snettisham in Norfolk. On particularly high tides they are forced off the mudflats, flying over the heads of observers to spend an hour or so roosting beside the lagoons on the Snettisham RSPB reserve, where hides offer stunning views of resting birds. But even on a moderate tide, flocks regularly take to the air to relocate; and occasionally they are pursued by birds of prey and then the Knot flocks perform aerobatics in the manner of a Starling murmuration.
The Snettisham Spectacular is visually stunning but also provides superb opportunities for bird photography. Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlins and Oystercatchers are all present in large numbers but the Knot are the star performers: flocks in flight are what Snettisham is renowned for. If you are thinking about entering the Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) competition (www.birdpoty.co.uk) a visit to Snettisham is highly recommended. It could result in images suitable for entry into at least three categories in the awards: Birds in the Environment; Birds in flight; and Creative Imagery. One photographic tip would be to avoid photographing individual birds; instead, concentrate on capturing flocks in flight. Look for patterns in the swirling groups; try taking images where birds are silhouetted against the glow of the rising or setting sun; perhaps experiment with a slower-than-usual shutter speed to create the feeling of movement in your image. Who knows it might be you that takes the next award-winning BPOTY image.
As with all photography, doing justice to the Snettisham Spectacular requires good light. The best photographic opportunities are when high tide occurs either in the evening, with the sun setting over the Wash and the Lincolnshire coast in the distance, or at dawn, with flocks captured in the first rays of the sun. Helpfully, the RSPB (who manage the Snettisham reserve adjacent to The Wash) publish access details and times and dates when the best displays are likely to happen.