You’ll stand amazed if you catch a murmuration at Titchwell or Snettisham when thousands of birds take flight in tight dancing formation as evening falls. From late summer onwards, tens of thousands of wading birds flock into the sky as the incoming tide pushes them off the vast mudflats. It is a uniquely impressive display as birds take off in their hundreds or thousands, bunched together in a close knit group and then land in a carpet of feathers on the mudflats near the coastline – or onto one of the numerous lagoons nestling behind the beach.
It’s one of nature’s great mysteries and never fails to astonish and delight the thousands of people who visit Norfolk’s reserves throughout the year. Carefully pick your tide time and season and you’ll be bowled over by the enormity of this spectacle. Both bird reserves are owned by the RSPB – and the one at Snettisham is pictured above from an appropriately bird’s-eye perspective.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) was founded in 1889 and works to promote conservation and protection of birds through public awareness campaigns, petitions and the operation of nature reserves. The RSPB has over 1,300 employees, 18,000 volunteers and more than a million members – it’s the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. It looks after over 200 reserves throughout the United Kingdom, covering a wide range of habitats, from estuaries and mudflats to forests and urban habitats.
Locally there are hides and guided walks at both Snettisham and Titchwell where there are disabled toilets in the car park and designated parking bays with disabled access to the visitor centre. Snettisham village, beach and the reserve also have a particular story to tell. A distinctive landmark on the shoreline are the ruins of a wooden jetty, which was used to load shingle on to boats to be transported across the Wash – but it may also have been used by smugglers to avoid landing cargo at nearby King’s Lynn port. Both sites are an absolute haven for bird watchers.
Expert or not, it really doesn’t matter when it comes to simply enjoying nature at its best.