Avocets on the Marsh

Avocets on the Salt Marshes

Since their return to the UK in the 40's, the Avocet has taken up residence across the country, and has become one of our most iconic wading birds because of this conservation success.

With the upturned bill, and the striking black and white plumage of both sexes, this elegant wader is hard to miss out on the scrapes and marshes it calls home.

One of these marshes, and a particularly bird rich one, is Cley Marshes up on the north Norfolk coast.  Being the oldest NWT reserve, it is heavily and carefully managed to ensure the breeding population of birds remain, and is a vitally important site for all kinds of nature in the area.

The view over Cley marshes to the sea

Photographing the Avocets

I based this photography session from the hides on the reserve, as they give the best views out on to the scrapes and pools - the paths can afford some views, but the birds are well used to hides and you can get some cracking closeup images if the conditions are right (and the people in the hides quiet.....)


All of the images on this session were created using the Canon 7DMk2, and Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM.  I did bring the 400 f5.6L prime and a backup 7D body, but the zoom factor of the Sigma was much handier as the birds came in close and retreated whilst feeding.

My trusty beanbag helped with stabilisation from the hide windows, much to the envy of some of the other bird watchers and photographers in there!

The Images

One of the great things about Avocets is that they are extremely feisty and protective and will attack larger birds who come into their personal space of that of the young - this makes for dramatic scenes which are great to photograph.  Sometimes this prompts other birds to defend themselves by attacking first.

This young shelduck decided to fight back:

SETTINGS: ƒ/6.3 - 484.0mm - 1/1250s - ISO 160 - rested on beanbag

Avocet & Young Shelduck 

Shelduck fighting back

When the birds stand upright between feeding shifts, you can get a great portrait, showing off the elegance of the bird with its perfectly proportioned body, spindly wader legs, and that iconic bill:

SETTINGS: ƒ/6.3 - 600.0mm - 1/1000s - ISO 160 - rested on beanbag

Adult Avocet

Juvenile Avocet

There's nothing like more graceful than an Avocet in flight - equally as elegant in the water and in the air, these are handsome birds in any situation:

SETTINGS: ƒ/6.3 - 586.0mm - 1/2000s - ISO 160 - handheld


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