Rising from my bed earlier than usual brought with it a tinge of anticipation. Grabbing an extra fleece, a flask of hot chocolate and a pair of binoculars I felt prepared. It was strange driving off in the dark but as the light lifted so did my excitement.
A low cloud of mist covered the sky but even in the dimness I could make out shapes shifting on the horizon. Snettisham reserve. High tide. Tens of thousands of waders (plus a few thousand pink-footed geese) what could be better? The air was surprisingly warm, so I ditched the extra layer and took position on the top of the sea ridge. The mudflats stretched before me, and a constant breeze slowly pushed ribbons of water towards the shore. A noisy group of oystercatchers took to the air, their commotion breaking the quiet of the dawn. High overhead, a lone family of pink-footed geese trailed across the sky calling to each other. I wondered if they longed for their tundra home, so very far away.
Oystercatchers in flight Photo credit: Les Bunyan
By now more visitors had arrived. First in ones and twos and then in swathes. Eager faces, excited chatter. Some carried large lens cameras and binoculars, others came with snacks and hot drinks and others came not knowing what to expect.
The curtains opened and a cast of thousands appeared. Far in the distance small black clouds began to move, swaying to and fro, gathering in height and energy. An inspiration of waders. Mesmeric, enchanting, effortlessly moving across the horizon to music that only the knot could hear. Scene after scene played out to an audience of hundreds. A few dunlin made a sterling effort to add to the drama, but their role was underplayed. The knot had centre stage and they knew it.
The incoming tide soon covered bare mudflats pushing the knot southwards. The light morning drizzle turned to rain and many visitors took refuge in the hides. Nature likes a little irony. Tired from their aerial display, countless numbers of knot took residence inland on the banks and islands of the lagoon. A blanket of silver grey, barely room to move. Others had no choice but to rest on the water while eyeing up any possible space where they might squeeze onto dry land.
Knot in the pits Photo credit: Les Bunyan
With the theatre concluded and the last of the pinkies headed inland, it was time for home. Another group of oystercatchers made a last ditch effort to catch my attention. It was only polite to watch.
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