The Wader Spectacular at RSPB Snettisham

I arrived at RSPB Snettisham just as the sun rose above the horizon. The air was pleasantly cool, and the calls of arriving pink-footed geese and a late chiffchaff filled the air as I made the long walk to the coast of The Wash.

I was still making my way to an appropriate spot to set up my camera when I was suddenly greeted by multiple murmurations of knots, which put on an amazing display in front of pale pink and blue skies. The shimmer of the birds’ pale undersides flashed as they banked and twisted with ease, and the whooshing sound of thousands of wing beats rushed to and fro and even above my head! This was my first time experiencing the wader spectacular, and it was happening surprisingly early as the mass of waders wouldn’t display this way until the tide pushed them fully off the mudflats onto the reserve behind the sea bank.

The sun continued to rise as the tide steadily made its way across, and pushed the waders further into the remaining, exposed mud plains. As they came closer to the shore, I was able to make out oystercatchers, ringed plovers, curlews, and shelducks, but it was the knots that were the most dominant feature on the shoreline. As time passed, the flocks decided to stick to the mudflats rather than making their way over the seabank further inland, but the waders still managed to put on mesmerizing displays, even as the tide began to push back out.

I am usually used to dealing with one subject matter, whether it be a single bird or mammal species. But because I was seeing a huge mass of birds altogether, I made it my intention to capture the movement of the flocks of waders rather than singling out one bird in flight, as I find just one bird in one frame against a plain sky wouldn’t give an indication of the type of environment it was in. I indeed had a small amount of land to work with and a very clear morning sky, but it was made up by the number of displays that were happening in the sky at the time. I had many opportunities to photograph the murmurations, and at times I was stuck between recording video content and photographs because of all the activity that was going on! However, I thoroughly enjoyed what I got to witness and I imagine it won’t be the last time that I witness this wonderful event.