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Slim chances at Snettisham

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

An Article by my friend Hazera Forth. All photos in the blog credited to Hazera.

Hazera is passionate about natural history and immerses in it through gardening, birdwatching and walking. She wrote and produced a local radio programme for 2 years to promote nature during lockdown as well as interviewed guest authors and community leaders in the environment sector. She has worked for the NHS most of her career in analytics but has also been in a similar role for the RSPB.

I am not as early as I intended to the carpark and the tide is already moving in the wrong direction. I check all my lenses and stuff them into my rucksack and realise there’s a parking meter to negotiate even though I’m a member.

The shore at Snettisham is quite a walk from here and I know the sun is going to make everything glare. I had an apple in the car which I slightly choked on so the blackberries along the 20 min route are a sweet welcome. I can hear some kind of warbler as I march towards the hide. There are birders coming back and this gives me spasms of regret for potentially wasting a journey. But I strive on. I strive.

I roost gently on the bank close to the old wooden remnants of what I think was a pier or groynes. There’s samphire and shells, pebbles. Delicious looking pebbles. The sort my toddler would probably have wanted to lick, actually did lick in Northumberland.

In the distance, there’s a whir of grey and white against a porcelain blue sky, it’s very distant and I’ve got a pair of cheap binoculars and my eyes are peri-menopausal and these varifocals refuse to let me focus. My camera’s long lens makes out a group of knots and a raft of oystercatcher. And there, there it comes. The spectacle. I want to reach it. It’s like a million glass mirrors shaving through the air. You can hear them cutting, spiking, searing. And just as quickly as they rose, they descend and become a mirage in the mudflats where there is abundance.

I know it’s still early but the show won’t go on for much longer. I decide to walk further up to the new hide, it’s a bit modern, not like the rickety cobweb ridden sheds where birders and togs regularly fall out about their bench territory or the noise or intrusion on a bittern.

There are a group of pink legged geese. And lapwings. Their kamikaze flight pattern does remind me of late-night scrapes between self-medicating office workers who’ve drowned their stress in a Bacardi or ten.

I have with me my thermos. This contains home cooked left-overs. I’m well prepared for the apocalypse and it’s warm. I always say, everywhere you go, always take the curry with you. I don’t think Crowded House will forgive me for that.

I walk, I like walking. It’s getting closer to the end of the day and I look at the sun and the sun looks at me and we have an understanding that we will stand together here for eternity, each second will last a millennium and we will be frozen in each other’s cosmic stare. This particular sun (for there have been a million of the same day somewhere, sometime) has made time stand still. I’m convinced we’ve been here now for 20 years. I don’t even breathe. The sun doesn’t breathe. Her geometric, galactic light dance is demanding I remember her. She’s dying, her warmth is 8 minutes out of sync. She’s so ancient and in this moment, so am I. After all, each of us is made of star dust.

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