Sound of Pinkies... winter’s not that far away
HERE’S the same electric charge every autumn when you hear them again – and you usually hear them before you see them – as skeins of Pink Footed Geese begin to arrive along the Sefton coast from Marshside down to Crosby.
The call is familiar to anyone who has spent any amount of time on the coast and is evocative of the winter days that loom on the horizon, although you can’t hold that against the geese.
Thousands of “Pinkies” spend the winter months with us, grazing and foraging on the West Lancashire farmlands during the day and roosting on the Ribble Estuary or at other safe spots like the sands off Hightown.
Roosting out on the sands and mudflats makes it a whole lot harder for a predator like a fox to sneak up on the dozing geese as there is less vegetation out there to mask a stalking hunter.
Their daily commute in huge “v” shaped skeins which reduce wind resistance for the travelling birds is as much a part of the coming months in Sefton as are the shortening days and falling leaves.
Efficient and high-speed flyers, satellite tracking and tagging has revealed Pinkies can make the long journey down from Iceland and into Scotland in about 18 hours.
After that they make the short hop south to our coastline – although some flocks complete the entire journey in a single flight.
The first few tend to turn up in the last days of August, although at this stage it is always hard to be sure whether they are new arrivals or one of the small number that over-summer, whether through injury or feral origin.
Then by the middle of September more and more come winging in from summer breeding areas on Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard, dropping down onto the Ribble and the surrounding farmland to graze almost as soon as their big pink feet hit the ground.
Tens of thousands of these special birds will be with us from now through to next spring – and the RSPB reserve at Marshside, the Alt estuary at Hightown (early morning and late afternoon) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s centre at Martin Mere, are great places to watch them.
Careful and quiet observation of the flocks reveals ringed or collared birds which can be identified individually if the ring or collar can be seen well enough to read.
A grazing carpet of thousands of “grey geese” can be a bit daunting at first, but the flocks can hold other species including Barnacle, Whitefronted and Bean Geese – winter treasure amongst the “Pinkie” horde!
Top, a Pink Footed Goose
Above, pinkies drop into the Ribble marshes
The distinctive skeins of Pink Footed Geese trace across our skies throughout autumn and winter