Saturday, 25 August 2012

High Tide at Snettisham

We have all seen the spectacle of large milling flocks of waders on the nature programmes, but why not go and see it for yourself? Snettisham is an RSPB reserve on the east bank of the Wash in Norfolk. The Wash itself is fairly flat and at low tide is 95% mud with just a shipping channel remaining open serving Kings Lynn docks. This 150 square miles of mud attracts tens of thousands of waders during the autumn and winter months which feed busily on the extensive food supply. As the tide comes in the waders are pushed further and further towards the southern end of the Wash, how far depending on the height of the tide. For the highest tides of around 9 metres the whole of the Wash is covered forcing the waders to seek refuge until the tide retreats once again.

As the tide approaches flocks of thousands of waders take to the air and wheel around deciding where to go to roost until the tide goes down once more. As the flocks gyrate they form differents shapes and intensity depending on the orientation of the birds. And yes, these are waders not mosquitoes.

Some of the displaced waders choose to visit the gravel pits behind the sea wall on the Snettisham reserve. When we were there the tide wasn't exceptionally high so many of the waders stayed out on the Wash. However, there were still plenty of birds to look at from the various hides including this small group of Redshank taking the opportunity to have a nap.

However, most of the waders present were Black-tailed Godwits, numbering several hundred.

 They spend most of their roost time having a bath in the fresh water, preening and sleeping.

They are also a mixture of colours. This is a young bird, showing a brown flush on its otherwise grey winter plumage.

But this is an adult, still retaining its resplendent rusty breeding plumage.

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