There a few places in the UK where you can experience the sights and sounds of nature any better than the North Norfolk coast during the Spring Tides that start in earnest from this month onward and for me herald the onset of the Autumn and Winter months. As the incoming tides submerge the whole area it pushes thousands of waders closer to the shoreline.
In the British Army communication either vocal or over the radio comes in all manner of unique turns of phrase designed to keep communication short and understandable. One word, if heard would always strike fear deep inside you ; “INCOMING”. As you took cover, holding onto your helmet and equipment hoping the rounds or shells wouldn’t land close to you.
At the same time your trying to work out where the threat was coming from and to see if everyone around you was safe and unhurt. A word I never took lightly during my time as a soldier; sniper in the British Army. You can listen to more of my time in the Army on a recent podcast I did with Olly Mann for the “Modern Mann” called “Nature, Nurture” by clicking here.
Today, many years on from my service I’m glad to say that word doesn’t bring about the same fear as it once did. It now brings a different feeling for me, one of heart racing enjoyment watching nature unfold in front of you and witnessing a wild animal advance towards you.
Norfolk is famous for its flocks of waders, geese, wildfowl who all begin to gather there now in great numbers as the seasons change from Summer into Autumn and Winter. Over the last few days the north Norfolk coast has once again provided some amazing high tides with thousands of waders being pushed up the beach as the tide works its way in covering the mud and sand flats, submerging the whole estuary.
I’ve just returned from this amazing place, where I had several clients all booked onto my “Springtides and Barn Owl” days during the last several days. While also spending some time photographing my own work on the days I wasn’t with clients. The weather was really kind for my clients, with beautiful sunrises and sunsets. With its moon-like landscape, vast open spaces, where thousands of birds fly past you, feet away, it’s just an amazing place to be during these Spring Tides.
As well as some incredible encounters with so many waders, geese and wildfowl my clients on their respective days were treated to some incredible encounters with wild barn owls. I’ve known of and visit several different barn owl sites in Norfolk. The owls were showing well and gave all my clients the opportunity to witness them at work, quartering and hunting in pure silence.
Gliding effortless over the farmland, always scanning the ground below, these amazing birds that have captivated me from childhood with their sudden appearance, gaining eye contact with you for a split second then disappearing as quick as they arrived. They truly are the masters of this habitat, never failing to get your heart rate racing once they appear and go about the job they were so well equipped to do.
On my last day in Norfolk I met a new client and we traveled to one place the barn owls had been showing really well. We got into place, hid away in the well covered hedgerow almost level with the ground sitting on a mat. We used the cover and vegetation to conceal ourselves and covered all exposed skin as this reflects light that the owl will see.
All the settings, camera advice and help had been passed on and what to look for. As I sat next to my client I signaled a white flash I’d noticed in the distance. “Barn Owl” I quietly said looking through my binoculars. My client readied his camera, started to focus and I said “just trust me, I will nudge you with my arm when its safe to take your images. Too much noise and the Barn owls will bank off and away”
“OK” was his reply as we waited my heart racing while a wild barn owl quartered the field to our front. The next images where taken alongside my client as that Barn Owl came towards us with a shrew he’d caught right in front of where we were hidden. My client waited for the “nudge”, and that nudge came as the Barn Owl approached closer and closer. I whispered “Incoming” and the wild Barn Owl flew towards us and over our heads, so close we could even slightly hear him, an unbelievable, priceless moment for us both.
I’ve been running these days now for sometime, where we spend the morning watching the springtides, then the rest of the day we photograph Barn owls, waders and the winter migrants that slowly arrive on mass throughout the next month or so. If you want to find out more on these days click here.For a more detailed. bespoke day in Norfolk then please see my one to ones days here.
Many thanks to all my clients that have joined me over the last several days, I really hope you’ve enjoyed your time in Norfolk and got some wonderful images, many thanks.