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Monday, 9 March 2015

Wild sounds from my archives - Pink-footed Geese at dawn

It would be difficult to describe Snettisham as a beautiful place. At low tide, from Snettisham on the Norfolk side of The Wash, there is no land but mudflats for 15 miles across to Lincolnshire. There's a shingle bank, with a line of homes or holiday lets, behind which are some brackish lakes.

In winter, at dawn, it's bleak. If it's a clear morning, it's cold, too...
...but, for wildlife watchers, bleak can be beautiful because this is the scene of an ornithological spectacle.

Right here, as we stand on the shingle bank looking out across the estuary; as the sky lightens before dawn, a mile out across the mud we can just see a dark line. With the help of binoculars or a telescope, we can see that it's a large flock of geese.
Suddenly, following no trigger that we can see, they start to fly. The flock rises quickly, several thousand birds, and turns straight towards us. We now start to hear them. Starting as a low rumble, the sound gets louder as they approach. They are all calling - keeping the flock together - as they fly over our heads.  Finally the sound fades as they head inland to spend the day feeding on the fields.

Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) in January 2011.
One wave has passed over us - just the last few stragglers can be heard.
Then another low rumble starts and another wave approaches...