Migrating and wintering birds
Hundreds of thousands of birds use the north Norfolk coast and the Wash as a stop-over during migration between breeding and wintering grounds, or stay on during the winter months. The two most important groups, and most vulnerable to disturbance, are wildfowl (ducks and geese) and waders (smaller, long-legged birds such as knot and dunlin). The Wash and north Norfolk coast are internationally important for the numbers of these birds they support.
Both groups feed on coastal marshes and waders in particular on the intertidal areas of beaches and mudflats. Migrant and wintering birds need to feed and conserve energy for long flights and to build up breeding condition. Their feeding time is limited by the tides and by short winter days and in cold weather they use more energy just to keep up their body temperature and survive. Disturbance means they use up valuable energy and fat supplies, which can affect their ability to survive and their breeding success the following spring.