The first Spring Tides of 2011 graced the Norfolk coastline this weekend with its customary mix of dramatic weather conditions and amazing ariel displays as thousands of waders, mainly Knot twisting and turning as the incoming sea covers the land forcing them into the air. The effect this gives is amazing, one minute its a wall of dark and then the next a wall of white, twisting, turning like a massive fish out of the water. The Spring Tides only really happen around 3-4 times a month and in some months, like December, there weren’t any at all. When the sea comes in and covers the whole area forcing the birds closer to shore, they gather together for protection and by doing so form stunning shapes and patterns.
I was in Norfolk for the Spring Tides over two days, running One To Ones. On the first day, Friday, the light in the morning was amazing, beautiful colours with small clouds giving the place that summers morning feel. As the light came up thousands of birds were flying around, forming vast flocks, twisting and turning, all in perfect harmony with each other, creating a smooth fluid movement, which is breathtaking to watch. Anyone who witnesses this does so in sheer amazement that something so beautiful happens on our own shorelines during the year.
Once the sea has consumed all the land the birds fly around in an almost panic state before settling into the pools or pits as they are better known in front of the hides there. These offer them a safe place to roost in, rest and relax until the spring tide starts to retreat, exposing the vast areas of mudflats, where the sea has replenished the whole area with food brought in by the incoming tides. Its then you get to see their numbers and sheer power, feeling the force as they take off from these pools, the noise is amazing and the sheer power of one of natures most amazing spectacles has to be seen to believed.
The light had faded a little, with the sun coming out one mintue then returning behind the clouds the next. As we watched with great anticipation as the Knot slept, heads tucked into their wings, sleeping, waiting for the signal to return back to the vast mudflats where they can roost far out to sea. The photograph above shows this behaviour as thousands of Knot all sleep, huddled together forming these vast groups, occasionally the air was filled with them all calling, chattering to each other, moving, others flying in, swelling their numbers. Sometimes the wait is long then next it is short, but when it happens its amazing. I had a sequence of one to ones with a few people during these days in Norfolk and the second group had never seen this event, which made it even more enjoyable. So as we all waited, apertures ready, enough shutter speed to freeze this moment, fine tuning everything for that moment they take off, something I have witnessed many times over the years, where each time you see something different, then with no warning, no introduction, they go.
Birds start to take off as the others wait on the ground for their turn to join their group and return to the sea. Peeling off , perfectly timed formations take to the air back to where they belong, the power and force can be felt as you sit in the hides. With the photograph above I wanted to convey this moment, how some birds wait for their turn while others have already taken off, following each other back to the safely of the sea, a truly amazing site within our wonderful wildlife in this country.
Then with only the last few birds to leave the land, the sky is full, thousands, upon thousands of birds take off, a shiver always goes down my spine upon seeing this, such is the power and beauty of this event. After which a hot coffee is a must to warm you and reflect on what we just saw. I then head around the coastline showing the clients the various places I visit, capturing images, going through techniques and helping everyone take better images, where at the same time seeing and learning what amazing wildlife we have around us and how they live their lives.
I also have a few Barn Owl sites I visit and work on. During the day I show clients this area hoping that they turn up, as many people have never seen one of these amazing birds which are one of my favourite species. Then right on time, they arrive from know where, hunting the ground, they then disappear in a flash giving you a brief insight into how they hunt and go about their lives.
I have been running these great days now for sometime, where each month there are a few dates that this amazing event happens so if you wish to make an enquirey or book, then send me an email here and I will get back to you with dates,spaces etc. These One To Ones can be run on an individual basis or as a group. Big thank you to all the nice people I met this weekend, Roise, Martin, Stuart, Marjan.