Sunday, 18 October 2015

Oct 17th Snettisham Coastal Park and RSPB Snettisham

The Wash
The Wash is one of the largest estuaries in the UK and between Norfolk and Lincolnshire is a mudflat which is constantly washed over by the daily tides. This mud is rich in invertebrate life, millions of them hidden within it. Feeding on them are thousands of wading birds. This includes the knot and the displays of thousands of them forming ribbons and waves in the air has made the RSPB site of Snettisham famous in the birding world. Though the tidal and weather conditions were not in our favour, Dad and I were here hoping to see them over a sunset.

A small Knot display
Before setting off to the reserve, we made a visit to Snettisham Costal Park just down the road. The Wash is a big feature in the landscape here too and it gave us a first look at a knot display, albeit a bit of a distant one. They create just a small display like a dancing smoke trail before sinking back down to join the other species of wading bird dotted across the mud. Grey plovers, curlews, redshanks and godwits were all busy feeding before the tide come back in later tonight.

Grey Plover
Godwit (possibly Bar-tailed)

Green Woodpecker
The shrubs and bushes of the park were alive with birds like goldfinches and the odd goldcrest. On top of one of them was a green woodpecker. Its loud calls directed me to it sitting there picking the berries off the bush (I had no idea they ate fruit). This is one bird I have never managed to get a photo of before, so I am pleased to finally get one. They are very pretty birds, yellow-green with a red cap and black moustache stripe.

As soon as the woodpecker flew away with a flash of its bright yellow rump, Dad spots something unusual on the ground. It was a hedgehog out in broad daylight! These are nocturnal animals, so to see one out and about in the day is not always a good sign. Though I am not an expert, it looked fit and healthy enough and went for cover in long grass as I approached it. I expect it was making an early start fueling up in preperation for hibernation, but foraging in the day may burn vital calories it needs to survive the winter.

Sea Aster
Bee on Thistle
The main pool at RSPB Snettisham
After our walk, it was time to visit the RSPB reserve. When I planned our visit weeks ago, I was hoping for great light conditions for a fantastic sunset for the knot to weave shapes in the sky. In 2006, we came here one autumnal day and saw them performing this over a golden sky, which turned the incoming tide shimmering gold in reflection. A seal was seen popping its head out in the golden sea water and hundreds pink-footed geese flew over as a finale. It was a memorable day. Today, on the other hand, was grey and gloomy and as we managed the long walk to the main reserve, it started to rain. It was constantly drizzly during our time here this evening. It was miserable!

Lincolnshire in the horizon
A larger Knot display
Walking around the main pool in the drizzly rain was gradually getting us rarther damp, but the wildlife were not put off by it. The birds out on The Wash were building in number as the evening was setting in. By the time we took shelter to watch the 'sunset' over the vast area of mud, the knot were displaying once again. This was a bigger display than earlier, swirling around like a large moving, whispy cloud and performing ribbons and waves that twisted in the distance. It didn't last though, but for what we saw, it was impressive enough and worth getting wet for.

From the hide, we watched starlings and lapwings arrive to the pool, while gulls, waders and waterfowl formed a large carpet of birds across the mud as the gloom began to look gloomier. It was starting to get dark and hares and partridges (including grey partridges) were moving along the shoreline in front of the hide. The sound of calling curlews and other waders became the soundtrack of this 'gloomset'.

Lapwings and Cormorants
The Wash
Getting slightly darker
Gulls flying by
Brown Hare
Getting darker still
A carpet of birds over the mud in the gloom
The Wash at dusk
The sunset I was hoping for was non-existent and instead got greyer and greyer, darker and darker. It was a waste of time and eventually, we gave up. The rain got worse as we made our way back, but to our surprise, bats were wizzing past low over our heads. Below, I recorded them, but I apologize for Dad talking. He was a bit over excited about seeing hedgehogs, hares and now bats today. Who could blame him. Despite the weather, we had seen some great things and as we returned to the car, a skein of pink-footed geese flew by in the dark. A fantastic way to end an awful day out.
Pink-footed Geese

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