The Wader Spectacular at Snettisham, on the eastern shore of the Wash, is one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles it is possible to see in the UK – a must-see event. On the highest tides, tens of thousands of waders are pushed off their feeding grounds as the water covers the mudflats, and forced to take refuge on the islands and edges of the disused gravel pits next door. The time to see this is from August to January.
15th August was a suitably high tide. Arriving at least an hour beforehand, the waders were progressively pushed up onto smaller and smaller patches of remaining mud, swirling round in groups. Finally, they could stand it no longer and began to head for the pits. The Oystercatchers started first, peeling off in small groups, joined by the Avocets, before the Knot took flight and suddenly the air was filled with birds, a ribbon cloud of birds streaming over the beach. Thousands took refuge on the pits in front of the hides – Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Spotted Redshank & Greenshank, Turnstone, Ringed Plover and lots of Oystercatcher. Some of the other species headed for the banks and fields just inland – Golden Plover, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew and Whimbrel. About an hour after high tide, the birds started to head back. Again, the Oystercatchers started first in small numbers. A cloud of Dunlin and Sanderling came up from the pits and wheeled out to the mud. Then the rest of the melee erupted – a vast throng came low over our heads, amazing! You can see a short video of some of the action – click here.