Champions of the Flyway!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


One of the many great things about moving out here is experiencing the migration of skeins of Pink-footed Geese in the throes of autumn. There's something inherently epic and heart-racing about watching flocks of these subtly beautiful Nearctic and Icelandic immigrants following the Yorkshire coastline towards their East Anglian wintering grounds, and a couple of days ago we had the pleasure of watching a locally exceptional movement just a few minutes from the house.

Another unseasonably warm and sunny day on the 6th tempted us out for a southbound clifftop walk, and with the Mrs picking brambles en route (there's an unending supply this year, as countless recent high-quality crumbles attest) I picked up the first flock, rounding the Brigg and battling the brisk westerly. Unlike previous days where a few groups totaling several hundred were a welcome but half-expected daily bonus, they kept coming, and kept coming - all 1,850 of them, in just two hours, from shortly before 1100.

Aside from a large flock using a flightline a few hundred metres inland, all skeins - ranging from 30 to 340 in size - traveled over the sea, on a narrow front between a couple of hundred metres and several kilometres from shore. As far as I can recall, it's most I've ever had the pleasure of seeing by some distance (outside of wintering flocks in situ), and another timely reminder of why even 'quiet' autumns here are never really quiet.

Flocks are invariably messy and ever-changing (one minute a loose V, the next a wavering S), and wonderfully conversational; their excitable yelps and barks are as much an evocation of the season as the high-pitched jingle of Goldcrests or the tseeps and chatters of Redwings and Fieldfares.