The nights are drawing in and that can only mean one thing: the Pink-footed Geese, or pink feet, are returning to Martin Mere. There is just a small trickle of birds at the moment, but, within the next couple of weeks, numbers will start to build into the hundreds, the thousands and then the tens of thousands.
Every evening throughout October, the birds fly in to roost at Martin Mere, providing what is one of the best wildlife spectacles in the UK. In order to allow local residents the opportunity to see the geese coming in, Martin Mere will once again be open free of charge, from 5.30pm to 7pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout October. The sight of up to 50,000 pink feet landing on the mere in front of a glorious sunset is something not to be missed.
The pink feet breed in Iceland and eastern Greenland and also in Svalbard, in the Arctic Ocean. The Icelandic and Greenland populations return to Britain to spend the autumn and winter, whereas the Svalbard population winters in the western parts of continental Europe. Around 200,000 pink feet spend the winter in Britain every year.
As we move through September, the geese will start to congregate in large groups in southern Iceland waiting for the optimum conditions to fly south to Britain. When we see a north wind blowing from the arctic in late September and October, we know we will get large numbers of geese arriving at Martin Mere, as they take advantage of a strong wind behind them.
The geese do not all come at once and there is a stream of them throughout October, with Martin Mere being an important stopover, a bit like an avian motorway services. Many of the birds will rest up for a few days, or even a few weeks, and then continue to North Norfolk, where more than 100,000 birds feed in the arable farmland on post-harvest cereal stubbles and sugar beet tops. However, many of the birds will actually stay throughout the winter in the North West, with up to 50,000 in West Lancashire and on the Fylde.
We have been monitoring the populations of pink-footed geese for over 20 years. So, if you’d like to find out more about the birds please visit our website at https://monitoring.wwt.org.uk/our-work/goose-swan-monitoring-programme/species-accounts/WWT.org.uk and remember to pay us a visit this autumn for a sight you will not forget.
Would you like an early morning experience to see the geese leave the roost - our Dawn Flight events take place on Saturday mornings in October. You must book in advance and the event includes a full English breakfast. Book today.