Such a perfect day...
My birthday falls not long after Christmas, often when the weather is poor, so I usually end up having a day out sometime later in January. Last year we had an amazing visit to Snettisham RSPB reserve on the 24th. We arrived at dawn to see the lacy skeins of pink-footed geese leaving the wash to feed, and the waders being forced off the mud flats by the high tide.
This year I realised that I'd be more constrained by Ben's college timetable in January, so we decided to take advantage of a day of good weather before Storm Frank to go to the North Norfolk coast. We started off at Thornham, where three shore larks had been reported. There were a lot of people around, families, dog-walkers and serious birdwatchers - not quite the peace we'd been hoping for! Initially we headed in the wrong direction for the shore-larks, but had a splendid walk along the beach, where the strand-line was thick with assorted razor shells, oysters and tellins. We then looped back through the dunes where we found a good population of Scaly Stalkballs (see extras), a strange fungus that's very rare in the UK.
We nearly gave up with the shore-lark quest, but then spotted a group of bird-watchers hanging about at the opposite end of the beach, so headed towards them, although the short-cut through the marsh wasn't a good idea for me - too slidy - though it was interesting (and very unusual)to see Thrift flowering at the end of December!
Although I'm a keen naturalist, I find serious twitchers and so-called wildlife photographers rather intimidating, so we didn't approach too closely. Luckily, the shore-larks came to us and despite not having a lens approaching the size of some that were being wielded, managed one or two record shots. Rather irritatingly, two men with humongous lenses walked much closer to the birds, straight in front of us, and together with a stray Labrador, caused them to fly off.
Once the birds had gone we decided to continue our walk, while the keen birders stayed put, being loaded down with equipment. A little further on we spotted a lone photographer crouching quietly near the strand line, and we crept close to see the three shore-larks foraging peacefully among the sparse vegetation at the edge of the mud. More photographs were taken (see extras) of these charismatic winter visitors, but I also enjoyed just watching them through the binoculars. We left before the hordes caught up with us...
We then headed to Snettisham Beach, to enjoy the open views across The Wash, where there is mile upon mile of glistening mud. In the winter sunshine this was reflecting the blue of the sky, to give the most amazing feeling of ethereal open space (see extras). Snettisham is one of the only places on the east coast that faces west, so we stayed until sunset, so that I could watch the sun go down over the flat coast of Lincolnshire, it's fiery orange colours lighting up the mud and silhouetting the feeding Brent geese. Truly a perfect day...
- Canon EOS 70D