Snettisham Beach this morning as the mist cleared and the tide rose – brilliant. We didn’t exactly have the place to ourselves as there were lots of people with binoculars and telescopes (maybe 100 or so) but we were all outnumbered by around 100,000 waders or more – probably more than half of them were Knots.
As the tide rose the waders were pushed off their feeding and roosting areas and many made their way to roost on the pits on the RSPB nature reserve. Shouting Oystercatchers, crying Curlews, screeching Dunlin with piping Redshank, trilling turnstones and wickering Barwits – and a lot o mostly silent Knot. Although when tens of thousands of Knot are overhead you can hear them moving the air around with their wings. But otherwise you could hear a pin drop as we were mostly in awe of such a natural phenomenon.
If you’ve never seen this amazing wildlife spectacle then think about going – although I think the high numbers of human visitors today were because the weather was so great, the tide was pretty high (low high tides don’t force the birds into the air so you only see what we saw on the high spring tides) and because we were all wondering whether another lockdown is on the way so let’s make the most of this opportunity. Anyway, it’s a lot colder in October!
What should you expect? It’s rather like those adverts for lager with flocks of Starlings doing aerial gyrations which make shapes like single-celled shape-shifting organisms in the sky.
Looking directly overhead for a while there were thousands of birds just a few score feet up and one could see the birds well, even catching glimpses of traces of the adults’ red breeding plumage in a few cases. And above, hundreds of feet higher, there was another layer where the birds’ wings were twinkling as the sun caught them and even higher was another layer of Knot, hardly discernible as birds except we knew they were.
My words can’t do it justice but if you see it, you won’t forget it. if you arrive early then you may not notice the Knot out in the distance sitting on the mudflats in a tight group – a grey smudge of hundreds, thousands of birds. but when the tide reaches them they lift into the air as one, revealing their true numbers in the tens of thousands (sometimes more). A lot of people go ‘Oooh!’ at this stage – it’s difficult not to. And why not?
I’ve seen the flock pass in a long stream overhead and onto the pits in almost one quick move but today there was a lot of aerial movement before the birds settled. It’s different every time because of the tide, the wind, the sunshine – but it’s always amazing.