This site is most famous for its flocks of whirling waders over the wash, they appear to take on a single entity like a shoal of mackerel avoiding a predator, truly awesome to watch. The most impressive flocks are usually Knot, in winter plumage they have grey upper body plumage and white undersides, this is what gives the amazing colour changes in the flock as they bank and turn through the air as one.
To get the best out of this site you should visit between September and early April when the most waders are present. The other very important ingredient is a high ‘spring’ tide. This pushes the birds up on to the reserve lagoons. Tide tables are available from the reserve and nearby Titchwell. Away from the highest tides you don’t get the same effect as not all the wash mud is covered and birds stay further out. If you come here at low tide the birds can be literally miles away.
The best strategy is to arrive an hour or so before high tide and let the drama unfold. When the tide is fully in move to one of the hides around the lagoons to view the roosting waders and other birds present. A taster of the highest counts from 2008; 7000 Oystercatchers, 2000 Grey Plovers, 2000 Golden Plovers, 80,000 Knot, 10,000 Dunlin, 2500 Bar Tailed Godwits and 1500 Curlew.
Thousands of pink-footed geese gather around the reserve from late September through to March with a few hundred still present until early may most years. The birds roost on The Wash but fly inland at dawn to feed on farmers fields.
The reserve through the seasons
Spring brings migrants such as wheatears and sand martins arriving from their wintering grounds in Africa, these are regularly seen along the beach. Common terns look for nest sites on the lagoons. Wading birds in their colourful breeding plumage pass through on their way to the Arctic, alongside avocets, oystercatchers and ringed plovers which nest on the reserve. Barn owls can been seen hunting over the salt marsh and fields.
Summer brings young birds to the lagoons with Avocet and tern chicks being busily fed. Later in the summer, flocks of knot begin to build up in number.
Autumn sees the migration of thrushes and finches returning from their summer breeding grounds further north. Wader numbers build up during autumn migration, with tens of thousands regularly present, busily feeding on The Wash, and regularly pushed on to the reserve by the incoming tide. Wigeon and brent geese start to arrive back from breeding grounds along with Pink Footed Geese.
Winter brings huge numbers of waterfowl to the lagoons and out in The Wash, while peregrines, hen harriers and Short Eared Owls may hunt on the salt marsh. Thousands of pink-footed geese roost on the mudflats at nights. Goldeneyes also gather in large numbers on the lagoon and possibly the odd Smew or Scaup can be seen with them. Along the beach and bank some years Twite, Snow Bunting and Shore Larks can be seen.