Snettisham, on the north Norfolk coast, plays host each year to two of the UK’s most spectacular wildlife events. During the hide tides, as the sea covers the mudflats, thousands of waders move from their feeding grounds on the Wash to roost sites on the lagoons behind the beach at Snettisham. During the winter months, these waders are joined by thousands of Pink Footed Geese flying over Snettisham from their overnight roost sites to their daytime feeding grounds.
The Roost and Sanctuary hides at Snettisham provide some of the best photographic opportunities of the waders whilst they are on the roost sites at the lagoons. Arriving at the Roost hide an hour before first light, I sat alone in the hide as the shadowy forms of hundreds of Knot, barely visible against the the pre-dawn sky, whirled past to join the thousands of Knot already roosting on the banks and islands in front of the hide. Only the cacophony of their song gave any indication of the numbers of waders present. As dawn arrived, it revealed thousands of Knot packed tightly together on the roost sites.
At times, ripples would flow through the throng of Knot as they moved on mass. By using a variety of slow shutter speeds, I worked to capture the movement of the Knot and the Oystercatchers that were roosting with them.
As the morning wore on and the high tide retreated, the Knot started to leave the roost sites and return to their feeding grounds on the mudflats. Eventually the moment I had been waiting for arrived as the Knot started to leave on mass. By using a fast shutter speed, I made images of the Knot frozen in flight. These images contrasted with those where a slow shutter speed was used that recorded the flying Knot as a moving blur against those that still remained on the roost site.
Returning the next morning, I had planned to photograph the waders from the beach as their large flocks wheeled over the mudflats against the raising tide. Unfortunately this plan was thwarted by the dull, overcast and wet weather that greeted me on arrival at the beach. Recognising that the weather conditions afforded the opportunity to produce high key images, I decided to work with the waders and wildfowl that were on the water near to the shore.
After the dull start, the weather slowly cleared and the beach was bathed in warm, low afternoon light. Sitting quietly and alone on the edge of the shore, I waited patiently as the different waders worked their way past me across the exposed mudflats.
The key to photographing the waders as they feed on the mudflats was to remain stationary and to let them come to me. Chasing the waders up and down the beach causes stress and pushes them further away.
As I sat on the beach, I watched as a flock of Golden Plover flew up and down the beach, landing at different places to feed on the mudflats.
As evening approached, the sky began to turn a fiery red as more and more birds began to fly overhead.
As the sun set, the day came to a perfect end as the sky was filled with the sight of wave after wave of Pink Footed Geese returning to their overnight roost sites.