Amazing sight as waders arrive in record numbers

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

A wading bird which migrates thousands of miles to our coastline each winter has arrived in record numbers.

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

Some 140,000 knots have landed on The Wash at Snettisham, near King’s Lynn.

The number, which was counted on Sunday, beats the previous record of 120,000 set in the early 1990s.

The tiny birds form spectacular murmurations when they take off en masse when disturbed by the incoming tide or a predator.

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

RSPB volunteer and photographer Les Bunyan, 64, has been up before dawn for the last five days to take pictures of the amazing sight.


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“There are very few places in the country where you can see a wildlife spectacular,” he said. “This is way, way up there with the best in the world.” Retired joiner Mr Bunyan admits the knots, which arrive on his doorstep at Snettisham each winter, have become an obsession since he moved to the village from Cambridgeshire with his wife Anne seven years ago.

He said he feels small when thousands of the birds shimmer simultaneously into the skies.

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

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Another keen fan is RSPB warden Jim Scott, who continues the bird counts which have been carried out on the coast for decades to monitor populations of winter migrants.

“In September there were 70,000 knot at Snettisham. A month later there are 140,000 - it’s amazing,” said Mr Bunyan. Knots are less than a foot long but make one of the longest migrations in the whole animal kingdom.

The dumpy waders fly thousands of miles from Arctic regions to the muddy estuaries, where they feed on worms and shellfish.

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan

Thousands of knots form spectacular murmurations as they take off at Snettisham. Picture: Les Bunyan - Credit: Les Bunyan

Mr Bunyan said those seen at Snettisham were believed to have flown to Norfolk from Canada.

The reason for the population increase is not known at a time when climate change and human activities threaten countless species around the world.

The RSPB says visitors should note the Snettisham reserve has a small car park which can hold around 80 cars.

Covid-19 restrictions are in place for using the hides. Each has a set capacity and face coverings are required for those who are able to wear them. Under no circumstances should visitors cross fence lines or climb shingle screening as this will cause disturbance to the internationally important wader roost.

There are no toilets and the distance from the car park to the wader watch point is approximately 2.2km and includes steps up and over sea defence banks.

For more of Mr Bunyan’s bird pictures, click here.

Waders are best seen on the highest spring tides. For more details on dates, click here.

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