Orange feet among pink feet

Snettisham never ceases to amaze me! No matter which season I visit this spectacular place, it never disappoints!

Today my Hungarian friend, Attila Seprényi (who’s living in Sweden) picked me up early in the morning and we drove to North Nortfolk for a day long birding. We got to the Snettisham RSPB Reserve still in the dark.

The incoming tide was on our side and birds were getting closer and closer to the shoreline in improving lights. As usual gulls took off very early and within a few minutes literally none left on the mud. Call of Black-bellied Plovers an Eurasian Curlew traveled quite far at dawn. This atmosphere I’ve been missing so much since World Shorebirds Day last September. The tidal mudflat holds thousands of wintering Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot and Dunlin, several hundreds of Eurasian Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Common Shelduck and Northern Lapwing. Murmurations of mixed flock of shorebirds is something I cannot stop watching. The speedy fly and sudden turns of massive flocks form a flashy silver ball over the mudflats. It is simply breathtaking.

However, this time, the biggest spectacle was a massive roosting flock of Pink-footed Goose. It was one of the targets of this short trip to get perfect views of the ‘pinkfeets’. There were about 50,000(!) roosting birds and a large majority of them came closer as the tide approached its peak shortly after 8AM.


High tide at the Snettisham RSPB Reserve with roosting Bar-tailed Godwits and Eurasian Oystercatchers. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the compelling list of birds and numbers from Snettisham:

Pink-footed Goose 50,000
Graylag Goose 1,500
Canada Goose 14
Mute Swan 16
Common Shelduck 670
Eurasian Wigeon X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler 2
Eurasian Teal X
Red-legged Partridge 1
Gray Partridge 2
Little Grebe 1
Great Cormorant 13
Grey Heron 1
Little Egret 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Eurasian Moorhen 5
Eurasian Coot X
Eurasian Oystercatcher 1,300
Black-bellied Plover 150
European Golden-Plover 225
Northern Lapwing 630
Common Ringed Plover 3
Common Redshank 270
Eurasian Curlew 552
Black-tailed Godwit 5
Bar-tailed Godwit 4,000
Ruddy Turnstone 28
Red Knot 1,500
Sanderling 1
Dunlin 3,000
Black-headed Gull X
European Herring Gull X
Mew Gull X
Great Black-backed Gull 10
Common Wood Pigeon 46
European Robin 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Dunnock 1
Meadow Pipit12
European Goldfinch 4

At the end of our Snettisham visit we met my long time Facebook friend, Andrew Goodall, who guided us for the rest of the day.

Before having a coffee at the Hunstanton cliffs we enjoyed close views of Northern Fulmars. They already occupied the best spots on the cliff.


Hunstanton Cliffs are home for nesting Northern Fulmars. Bellow the spectacular cliffs Eurasian Oystercatchers and Ruddy Turnstones foraged. © Gyorgy Szimuly

20 minutes stay produced this list:

Eurasian Wigeon 9
Northern Pintail 1
Northern Fulmar 37
Eurasian Oystercatcher 130
Common Ringed Plover 3
Ruddy Turnstone 7
Black-headed Gull 42
European Herring Gull 65
Mew Gull 12
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Eurasian Wren 1
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Common Starling 7
House Sparrow 1

On the way to Holkham we stopped at Mill Farm near Burnham Horton where 456 Brent Goose fed on a grassland joined by 2 Egyptian Geese and 22 Eurasian Curlews.


These Tundra Bean Geese were photographed a little bit further east at Clay Nature Reserve by the renowned author Nik Borrow on the same day. © Nik Borrow

Our next stop was at Holkham Estate Reserve which proved to be a very good place for Pink-footed Geese. It offered a fantastic opportunity to watch large flocks from a close distance. Through the spotting scope every fine detail was visible. While browsing the flock, I spotted two Tundra Bean Geese which is an uncommon winter visitor in North Norfolk in very low numbers. A hunting Barn Owl in front of us was a nice bonus. We found and a white morph Common Buzzard what had been reported at BirdGuides multiple times as Rough-legged Buzzard.

Tundra Bean-Goose 2
Pink-footed Goose 4,000
Graylag Goose 60
Eurasian Wigeon 1,000
Mallard X
Ring-necked Pheasant 7
Red Kite 1
Common Buzzard 2 (one almost all white)
Eurasian Moorhen 5
Northern Lapwing 450
Common Redshank 36
Eurasian Curlew 42
Black-tailed Godwit 18
Black-headed Gull X
European Herring Gull X
Barn Owl 1
Eurasian Kestrel 1
Eurasian Jay 3
Eurasian Wren 2
European Robin 2
Eurasian Blackbird 1
Fieldfare 55
Mistle Thrush 3
European Starling 28

Many thanks to Sepi for the great company, to Andrew for guiding us around north Norfolk and to Nik Borrow for permitting using his photo. I can’t wait to return!