Wild Goose Chase

One of the most evocative sights and sounds of late autumn / winter here in Norfolk is the arrival of the Pink-footed Geese.  Huge straggly V’s, known as skeins, stretch across the sky as they leave the safety of their roosts on off-shore sandbanks.  With a great cacophony of calls they head inland to feed on the remains of the sugar beet harvest.

Masses of geese fill the sky above Salthouse Marshes

The Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) breeds in Iceland and eastern Greenland.  It is estimated that 1/3 of the world population, over 100,000 birds, spend the winter in Norfolk.  These are very wary birds.  Unlike the Greylags and Canadas of the rivers, broads and park lakes that will mug you for a slice of bread, the Pinks are difficult to approach and photograph.  However at Holkham Fresh Marsh they seem to tolerate the movement of people.

Pink-feet (yes they have pink feet) on Holkham Fresh Marsh

There are other species of geese that winter here.  From western Siberia come several thousand Brent Geese (Branta bernicla).  This is the dark bellied race, they are the smallest of geese no bigger than some ducks.  The Brents are mostly confined to the coast feeding on eelgrass.  They will, to the annoyance of farmers, venture on to nearby fields of winter wheat.

Brent Geese on Holkham Salt Marsh

If you plan your day well you could also see Taiga Bean Geese and Whitefront in the Yare valley east of Norwich.  You may, in the vast flocks of Pinks, pick out some Barnacle Geese or maybe a Tundra Bean Goose. If you are really lucky you could find a vagrant Snow Goose or Ross’s Goose.  In past years I have even been fortunate to see rarities like a Red Breasted and a Lesser Whitefront Goose all in the beautiful County of Norfolk UK.




26 thoughts on “Wild Goose Chase

  1. Your geese seem so exotic to me since I am used to seeing only Canada Geese (and lots and lots of them). Wonderful shots and thanks for introducing me to a new use of the word “skein”–I’ve previously heard it used only with regard to yarn.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for introducing me to new Geese species. We are pretty limited stateside but I do have the Canada, Greater White-Fronted and Snow – at this point the Cackling and although probably bias the cutest of them all the Ross’ s continue to elude me. If I manage to get up to the Alaska with a lot of luck I might be able to get an Emporer or some blow over of the Brant (your Brent). Think the Pink Footed is going to take a lot longer flight, but these wonderful birds you have been showing us as of late is giving me the itch to look into it more and more.
    Guessing your species also leave quite the minefield on the ground when they waddle through. Keep ’em coming !

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    1. Several thousand geese feeding in a field certainly, er, enrich the soil lol. Thought you might get Black Brant or are they too far away? I’ve seen a few over here, a very distinctive race. Forgot to mention the Cackling Goose and other forms of Canadas that are sometimes found or even the Egyptian Goose that seems to be getting everywhere. Have been lucky to see them all.

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      1. The Black Brandt does just touch our coastlines during migration and some varied spots for non-breeding, but their breeding preference is way to north for us – I always keep an eye out for them when we hit the Carolina coastline but zero luck so far. Sounds like you have this species well checked!

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