The migratory pink-footed geese winter in Britain and reach our shores in autumn. Numbers have been increasing lately and this year could top the record figure of more than 85,000 geese that arrived at Scotland's Montrose Basin in 2015.
An army of pink-footed ‘invaders’ is heading for the British coast. Although most migratory birds leave our shores at this time of the year, pink-footed geese make their way from the waters off Iceland and Greenland, where they have been moulting their wing feathers after having nested in the Arctic countries in the summer, to the Faroes and on to Britain, where they congregate in October and November.
One of their gathering places of choice is the Montrose Basin, near Montrose, in Angus, Scotland. The 1,853-acre reserve — a tidal basin that’s part of the South Esk River’s estuary — is a magnet for migratory birds, including Arctic terns, knots and sedge warblers, as well as geese. In 2015, a record-breaking 85,000 of the pink-footed birds — a quarter of the world’s population — was counted at the Basin and this year’s arrival could top that figure.
The species, which is classified as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern review, is growing in numbers, thanks to effective conservation efforts both in Britain and in their Arctic nesting grounds — estimates put the increase to 120% in the 25 years between 1989-90 and 2014-15. Altogether, some 370,000 of the pink-footed, short-billed birds are now thought to winter in Britain.
Once in Scotland, the geese spend their nights roosting over the estuary and fly out at dawn, honking loudly, to feed in the nearby farmland — they are partial to grains, winter cereals, potatoes and grass. As autumn progresses into winter, they make their way further south into North Western England and East Anglia — particularly Norfolk, where numbers have been rising steadily since the 1990s. The pink-footed skeins then depart the British shores in March and April, returning north to breed.
The birds are best spotted at dusk or dawn near large estuaries, such as the Montrose Basin, the Wash, the Ribble and the Solway. The Wildlife Trusts recommend bringing binoculars and gloves, woollies and a hot drink to keep warm.
But if that sounds like too much work, an easier way to spot interesting wildlife this autumn is to secure tickets for the inaugural edition of the Wilderland Film Festival. Created by zoologist filmmakers Dan O’Neill and Isaac Rice, the festival showcases nine wildlife films by independent film-makers at 26 different locations across the UK and Ireland, from Tonbridge and Dorking to Inverness and the Shetlands.
Among the selected films, whittled down by a distinguished jury from a shortlist of more than fifty, are Tom Parry’s A Place for Penguins, which introduces the little-known, threatened bird to the public and reveals efforts to create the world’s first artificially-induced African penguin colony; Lindsey Parietti’s Blood Island, which explores the plight of Liberian chimpanzees; and Billy Clapham’s Keeper of the Call, which tracks a Welsh farmer’s efforts to save endangered curlews.
The Festival starts on October 5 and ends on November 22. Tickets for each of the locations are available for sale on the Wilderland website.
Winning photos and honorable mentions were selected from 2,253 entrants from all over the United States, Washington D.C. and 10
Elusive species have been making appearances, while scientists are surveying remote areas providing a haven for seabirds.