You hear a lot about the importance of having optics that work well in low light conditions. A recent trip to East Anglia provided a perfect illustration of why it’s so important for Leica Birding ambassadors, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller. Warning: this blog contains a high number of “wow” moments and may give you a desire to leap out of bed pre-dawn…
“It was the last full day of our Birdwatching Trip week-long visit to North Norfolk and we were up before dawn. As we stepped out of our wonderful house, which overlooked the marshes, a star-filled sky was the first “wow” moment of the day. We were up so early for a very good reason: a high tide wader-watch on The Wash at RSPB Snettisham. We arrived in the car park just as the first hints of dawn could be seen to the east. An orange glow low on the horizon promised a good day. A Woodcock whizzed fast and low past us, luckily two more followed, this time we were ready for them: a second “wow” and it wasn’t even light!
“We made our way along the path as the light came up. Reaching the sea wall, we looked out over the vast mudflats of The Wash with our Ultravid HD-Plus binoculars. This enormous estuary separates Norfolk and Lincolnshire and is home to tens of thousands of wintering waders and wildfowl. The tide was rising and we could see the water slowly moving across the huge expanse of mud. Gulls were pouring inland from their roost out on the estuary and we picked out a lovely adult Mediterranean Gull amongst the thousands of Common and Black-headed Gulls. The “wink-wink” calls of Pink-footed Geese filled the perfectly still dawn air as they too left their muddy roost to feed on inland fields. It was a magical sight against the pink dawn sky, and another “wow”.
“We followed the seawall south, all the time watching masses of waders moving over the mudflats – an army of birds on the march. As the tide picked up the pace across the vast estuary we stopped and set up camp, Leica APO-Televid Spotting Scopes at the ready, to wait for the main event. We scanned the scene in front of us. How many birds could we see? Lots! Thousands and thousands of waders were being pushed towards us by the rising tide: what an amazing spectacle. The first birds to move were gangs of Knot that whirred past us and dropped on to the lagoon behind us – “wow” again!
“Suddenly the tide seemed to realise it was time to rush in and very quickly that vast area of wet shiny mud was fast disappearing before our eyes! As it vanished, the birds were concentrated on the remaining muddy area right in front of us – yet another “wow”! Then, as the very last mud was being flooded by the water this happened…
“I wish I could find the words to paint a picture that really conveys what this wildlife spectacle really looks like, but I don’t think there are any that can do justice to this jaw-dropping sight. You have to see this for yourself! A total massive “wow”! It was like watching a magical natural firework display, the twisting turning flocks of tens of thousands of birds wheeling and circling before us. On this day the event was made extra special by the light. Shafts of golden low level rising sun struck the swirling flocks turning them to golden cascades of life, “wow”!
“Just when we thought it could not get any better, a Peregrine Falcon tore into the golden swarm and split the organised waders into a mad panic of “whooshing” wings – the biggest “wow” yet! The falcon flashed low over the water just in front of us, rising up above the waders before stooping through the flock! What a sight: this was adrenalin pumping, breath-taking wildlife at its very best. The Peregrine struck and there was one less wader amongst the tens of thousands filling the sky. The vast flocks of Knot and Dunlin twisting and morphing above us were just awesome and we were all stunned and thrilled by what we were watching: magical, wonderful, amazing, brilliant!
“To enjoy so many birds at such close quarters was a very special experience indeed. Avocets, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers were all present in good numbers, along with the vast flocks of Knot and Dunlin we’ve already mentioned. Wildfowl were also here in big numbers, particularly Shelduck and Wigeon, with Teal, Pintail, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser all here.
“Our clients, Tony and Eva, commented – “Many, many thanks for an incredible and unforgettable week. Looked at your blog with photos of Snettisham – just magical!”
“We walked back buzzing with the excitement of what we had just witnessed, a true wildlife spectacle. What better way to end such an experience – a full breakfast! And boy did it taste good after our early start and “wow” morning!
“Come and join us soon for the very best Birdwatching Trips. Please email us here for details of all our set departure tours or if you would like us to put together a custom trip tailor-made for you… “
We look forward to enjoying great birds with you soon!