If you live anywhere near Morecambe Bay or the Ribble Estuary you’ve probably noticed that the Pink-footed Geese have returned in force over the last week. I first saw significant numbers on a day birding around Glasson and Cockersands with a friend on the 16th. He said that there’s nothing like seeing them coming in at height clearly on migration rather than roost to feeding ground journeys, he’s right.
Last Monday before the Queen’s funeral I went out and watched birds leaving the Pilling Marsh roost. It was enjoyable but most of the birds left whilst the weather was relatively poor and the visibility reduced. I went back this morning and it was amazing. Several thousand birds left the marsh in groups, a significant number of them going more or less overhead at Lane Ends Amenity Area where I was viewing from the car park.
I spent a pleasant if rather chilly hour flip flopping between scanning the flocks on the marsh for other species and just appreciating the spectacle of the skeins. At times I felt a bit guilty trying to pick out Barnacles or Whitefronts, rather than just taking in the broader experience. Rare geese are a bit of a quandary anyway, with many as likely to have escaped from ornamental collections as come from foreign lands.
I was hoping that the whole experience wasn’t going to be tarnished by volleys of shooting from the wildfowlers. Unfortunately after an initial silence the sounds of guns rang out over the saltmarsh. There weren’t many rounds, perhaps the flightness of the morning kept the quarry out of range. Looking for the geese at the roost rather than when feeding in the fields has this significant drawback. With avian flu rife it’s also the last thing the birds need.
Working round Morecambe Bay before the Barrow game I was at Roa Island as the tide came in. Pink-feet were going over here at height presumably bound for Pilling in all likelihood. On the deck there were over 70 Brent Geese, which may have come from as far as Canada. The soundtrack for the best days of my winter is likely to be the grunting Brants and ‘winking’ Pinks, and I’m looking forward to it.
If anyone is interested in further reading on geese Steven Rutt’s Wintering is a very readable introduction to Britain’s regular species and is recommended. You can find my original review on here somewhere if it doesn’t link below.