Become a member

Help us save nature at places like this. From £3 a month.

Print page

When to visit

Wader flock (including oystercatchers and dunlin) at the RSPB Snettisham nature reserve

Image: Chris Gomersall

Snettisham is home to two of the UK's great wildlife spectacles: massive clouds of wading birds whirling around as they are pushed off the mud by the incoming tide, and huge flocks of pink footed geese leaving their night-time roost at dawn in V-shaped formations.

Here's our simple guide to getting the best views of the birds. You can also download a table, showing the best dates and times to visit Snettisham, from this page.

Wader spectacular

The breathtaking flight of up to 50,000 wading birds leaving the mudflats of The Wash and landing in front of Snettisham's hides is one of nature's most impressive sights.

Though waders can be seen on all of the highest tides from mid-July to late May, the best period is from August to January.

For the best experience, time your visit to coincide with a tide high enough to cover all the mudflats. We recommend visiting three different spots to get the most from your visit.

  • To watch the huge whirling flocks leaving the mudflats, stand at the wader watchpoint on the beach, Depending on the height of the tide you'll need to be there 30-90 minutes before high tide
  • During the high tide, the massive flocks often land on the shingle banks and islands within pit 4. They may stay there for an hour or more after high tide. Watch from the viewing screen at the southern end of pit 4
  • Even though the birds can't see the sea, they seem to know when the tide's going back out and leave in long, smoky lines. This can start as early as 30 minutes after high tide and can last for up to an hour. For the best views, watch from the beach between the wader watchpoint and Shore Hide.
Skein of pink-footed geese at dusk

Image: Graham Catley

Pink-footed goose spectacular

The goose spectacular occurs in the hour or so after dawn from mid-November to late January. 

You might see tens of thousands of geese flying overhead in V-shaped formations, all calling loudly. At dusk, they return to the mudflats for the night.

To see the goose spectacular, get there by dawn. It's early, but it's worth leaving your duvet for! Avoid up to five days either side of full moon as the spectacular is not as reliable in this period.

For the best views, of the geese, stand on the beach between the wader watchpoint and Rotary Hides. The first groups to leave each morning may give an indication as to the best places to stand later during the spectacular.