Counting them out and back

PUBLISHED: 13:03 02 February 2007 | UPDATED: 22:33 28 May 2010

It was interesting to see the cross over of two birds once the cold snap started. At the same time, I watched pink-footed geese going out and lapwings coming in . Pink-feet breed in Iceland and they depart from their Norfolk winter home from as early

It was interesting to see the 'cross over' of two birds once the cold snap started. At the same time, I watched pink-footed geese 'going out' and lapwings 'coming in'.

Pink-feet breed in Iceland and they depart from their Norfolk winter home from as early as January. You would think that it seems a little silly to head back north so early in the winter, particularly somewhere as cold as Iceland.

They don't actually go all the way back to Iceland just yet though. Their journey is completed in stages and the birds that leave Norfolk make the relatively short cross-country journey to Lancashire and/or Scotland where they spend the rest of winter.

Some of the geese are ringed while in Iceland, either as goslings or adults when they are in moult and cannot fly in late summer. These ringed birds can be identified in the field using telescopes.

Occasionally, something a bit more exciting happens when it comes to tracking the 'pinks' in their movements around Britain and this happens when they have a rarity with them. Two snow geese from North American spent the early-mid part of winter in Norfolk among the pink-footed geese. One was a pure white bird (a white phase) and the other had just a white head and a dark body (a blue phase).

The white phase bird could not have been more eyecatching and it was seen crossing the Wash with a flock of pink-footed geese one morning in mid January. Amazingly, the flock was then seen passing over Lincolnshire and sites in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire during the course of the day. Shortly after, the snow goose (and presumably all its pink-foot companions) was then found at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's reserve at Martin Mere in Lancashire.

During the cold snap I was up on the Norfolk coast and flocks of pink-footed geese were clearly heading off north-west, but at the same time, neatly-arranged flocks of lapwings were arriving in off the sea and heading in the opposite direction.

These would have come from the continent and were seeking softer, ice-free ground here in Britain. They may well have continued right across country to the milder West Country and Wales.

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