Sunday, 9 September 2012

A few winter warmers..part one.


With the nights drawing in and winter fast approaching I know some photographers pack up their gear until spring. But there's no reason too, sure it's colder and the mornings are dark and frosty (sometimes snowy too). People will moan the light is rubbish but I disagree. I love this time of the year and after such a dreadful summer, can winter be any worse...don't answer that one.
Last winter I completely forgot my usual wintering haunt (my own personal migration) of North Norfolk. There's an abundance off sites with plenty of birds too see. One of my favourites is the RSPB's Snettisham site, situated in the Wash it's a big muddy estuary and plays host to some of the biggest and most impressive flocks of birds you're likely to ever see. If you read "Holding Moments" blog on the left hand side of this blog you'll see a video of a big flock of geese coming into roost. As the winter draws on there will be other species of geese joining the flock, most notably Pink Footed Geese but scan the flock carefully as there can be other species too. Brent Geese also migrate to the Norfolk coast and can be found just about anywhere. I remember one time driving past one field and seeing about 200 Pink Footed Geese and 20 Curlew in the fields. brilliant, except for the poor driver following me who almost ended up in my rear bumper as I pulled up for a closer look.
Snettisham (after the longish walk from the carpark) can seem a bit of a desolate spot (don't the best places always seem that way). If you arrive when the tides out it can on first impression seem empty of any bird life as you stare out onto the mud, but then you start to notice the Shelducks and waders far off in the distance. You have to wait for the tide to turn and as it does the pace picks up. The waders out feeding in the Wash are forced off the mudflats and into the high tide roosting spots in front of the hides.
The picture above is of a flock of Knots approximately 10.000 in size, the flocks have been known to be bigger. The key to this site is to turn up at the highest tide possible and with a full moon (effects the tide etc), it's truly one of the most impressive sights as thousands of waders head in your direction, flitting past your head just to roost in the lagoons, it's also quite a comical sight to watch all the waders scuttling around in the lagoons, it just a sea of movement. Whislt the birds are in the lagoons or heading for them it's worth keeping an eye out for predators such as Peregrine falcons and Sparrowhawks. Definately worth getting cold for.
My other favourite site in the winter is the RSPB's Titchwell nature reserve. This is one of their flagship reserves i.e. very popular and a lot of people around. It's a weird one for me as I don't like the hides on the reserve and often find myself on the beach there. Normally I'll check the lagoons as I head for the beach for anything interesting, hopefully if I've timed it right the tide is just turning and going out and all I do is follow the tide out. It's great because you'll get Turnstones, Curlew, Sanderling, Knots, Grey Plovers and if your lucky Red Breasted Mergansers flying past. Wether it's cold or not it's time to get down on my belly in the sand, and stay still as small flocks of Sanderlings either scuttle past or fly past. Sanderlings are my favourite wader and hence Titchwell holds a fondness in my heart as I think it's probably one of the best spots to photograph them. However Turnstones are just as good as typically they don't flush away so easily. I remember one time photographing Sanderlings on my belly and a small flock of ten landed within feet of my left handside. I didn't move as the flock headed my way right in front of my lense (too close to photograph) and one just walked right over the top of my 500mm lense, luckily it didn't leave a deposit..if you know what I mean.
In part two I'll cover my other three favourite spots in North Norfolk, just a poor excuse for posting some old images lol. Hopefully as winter swings into action I'll be in Norfolk more this winter, that is unless we get a flood of Short Eared Owls like we did last winter of course.



  1. An amazing spectacle at the Wash. Certainly be going back there again.
    Great shot of the Sanderling.

    You've mentioned two of my favourite Norfolk sites; I'll be interested to see your other 3 favourites.

  2. Cheers. Just sorting some images for the next three. Probably Tuesday/Wednesday so not to long to wait.

  3. Some good tips there Doug, I may give it a go myself?