The sight of pink foot geese taking flight at dawn is one of nature’s most magnificent winter spectacles. But if prising yourself from bed on a frosty morning is just too painful, you can still witness the geese returning to their roosting grounds as the light fades to dusk. Numbers have been increasing over the last 50 years, with upwards of 100,000 now wintering in Norfolk.
During the day the geese are scattered across the Norfolk fields, shy and hard to spot, moving in grey clusters over the muddy land where they grub for sugar beet tops, searching for root crops rich in carbohydrates. But at the end of an autumn or winter afternoon, try waiting on Lady Anne’s Drive at Holkham. Watch the landward horizon, for this is where they’ll appear. Listen for their calls, piercing the leaden sky until a faint V-shaped skein comes into view. Keep your eyes on it until you see a multitude, fluctuating as formations take turns to lead the flocks.
The skies grow loud and shapes become sharper as they close the distance towards you, arriving in waves. The air is alive with noise, a rowdy hubbub of gathering geese. It’s a little like a starling murmuration, except these birds are almost as big as swans. Then they drop onto the marsh, hoards from the Icelandic Highlands plunging in wheeling spirals. They land. And suddenly it’s silent. You’ve witnessed something truly extraordinary. Now…time to find a nice warm pub!