This Snettisham Spectacular, or Wader Spectacular, is one of the highlights of the Norfolk birding calendar. Open to absolutely everyone, young or old, experienced birder or not, this wader spectacular is most definitely worth making the effort for.
My goodness you are in for a treat!
This is a rare chance to see UK wading birds in their hundreds and thousands, literally being pushed off the mudflats by the fast incoming tide. They take off in one great throng, performing an incredible show in front of your very eyes, a mass of swarming birds, only to settle a little further along the mud flat, for it all to happen again and again, until they have to rest on the lagoon the other side of the sand bank when they are finally defeated by the incoming tide.
It really is an incredible spectacle, and no wonder it’s called the "Snettisham Spectacular". If you go over to Norfolk Videos, you’ll see it with your own eyes. But nothing does it justice than actually being there and seeing it for yourself.
It’s vitally important that you check the Snettisham tide timetables for early morning or later afternoon if you want to catch sight of any birds here at RSPB Snettisham. Or better still, visit the RSPB website for excellent article on the dates and times for the Snettisham Spectacular.
The reason that you need to check the tide times is that the tide goes out a long way, and with it the waders. So if you turn up at low tide, you will be disappointed, to say the least. Having said that, at least at RSPB Snettisham you do have the lagoons behind the sandbanks which always have some other very interesting wildlife.
The RSPB have timings (as on the above link) to the best times during the year to catch the Snettisham Wader Spectacular, but if you miss these particular times, you can still catch it from September to April. So all is not lost if you aren't able to make any of the specific dates the RSPB give.
If you feel you would like to watch this with a guide, then the RSPB put on events for this particular activity. You can read all about the RSPB Reserves and Events here.
There’s always a great atmosphere when the Snettisham Spectacular is about to happen. Everyone around is very friendly, some very knowledgeable, and it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen it, this incredible show of nature still never fails to amaze. It just leaves you quite breathless.
The noise from the knot that fly over in droves is incredible. It’s difficult to describe, but it sounds like the wind blowing as they swoosh back and forwards from the lagoons to the mudflats. A whirling whoosh of waders over the Wash.
And as long as you get there early enough, you can watch the tide coming in at an incredible pace, covering the mudflats extremely quickly. You only have to watch some of the waders or duck on the water to see them being swept along at vast speed to see how quickly this all happens.
The Snettisham RSPB site borders Snettisham beach. The best way to arrive at the site is to park at the designated RSPB car park just before Snettisham beach car park, and walk to the viewing site along the well-trodden path towards the sea. Disabled access is possible but you need to let the warden know at least 5 days in advance. There is a charge for this. At present it is £2 for non members and free for RSPB members.
And you want to be in position about an hour to an hour and a half before high tide to catch the best of the waders.
Once the tide is fully in, the wading birds have to fly over the sand dunes and eventually come to rest on the edge of the lagoon, on the bank the other side of the wash.
This is yet another incredible scene. Against the water’s edge of the lagoon is a carpet of, what looks like, stone, but is in fact a mass of knot. 1000s of them. And they’ll patiently wait until the tide goes out again, which is about an hour later and fly back to the ever increasingly exposed mudflats.
Norfolk's Nature Reserves offer so much to anyone interested in wildlife. But this is truly something you have to experience, and one of Norfolk’s hidden secrets.
Don’t just be a birder to see this, please! It’s awesome! Watch my video on Snettisham Spectacular.