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Geese flying in a blue sky

Wild goose chase

Treat yourself to one of the greatest natural sights to be seen in the UK. Ken Dykes visits Norfolk.

Fancy doing something different and exciting during those interminable Christmas shopping days?


Or perhaps a weekend away to brighten those dark and dismal days that follow the festive season?


Between November and January you could be treating yourself to one of the greatest natural sights to be seen in the UK - the flight of thousands of wild geese as they leave their roosting places each dawn and return every evening.


This event takes place daily at this time of year as the birds - mainly pink footed geese which migrate from chillier northern climes to spend the winter on the north Norfolk coast and fly out at daybreak to feed on the extensive sugar beet fields of East Anglia - make their way home to their roosting sites on mudflats and marshes of the Norfolk coast.


Around 100,000 pink footed geese make this area their base each winter and when added to the brent geese, the greylags, the white fronted and the barnacle geese, also present in their thousands, they make a spectacular sight as they come in to roost.


If you have stood and watched thousands of wild geese that fill the sky as far as you can see and fill your ears with their continuous 'honk-honking' you will then have experienced a scene you will never forget!


Don't run away with the idea that this great treat is only for the ardent bird-watcher or 'twitcher'. Thousands of 'ordinary' folk make the pilgrimage each year to enjoy the spectacle, so you won't be alone.


Although if ornithology is your bent, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has a number of nature reserves in the region to keep your daylight hours occupied.


And while you're at it, why not become an RSPB member (details on both these subjects on www.rspb.org.uk where you can find out more about the geese and plenty of other species).


One thing they do stress is to avoid several days either side of a full moon. The geese flights being a natural phenomenon they can't be guaranteed to perform!


Why not really treat yourself to a gourmet weekend by staying at an up-market B and B and enjoying the delights of the county. We stayed at The White Horse at Brancaster Staithe where we found the rooms were comfortable and clean—and it boasts one of the best restaurants in Norfolk, specialising in seafood dishes. Details at www.whitehorsebranchester.co.uk booking virtually essential although there are plenty of other choices in the region, details at www.visitnorthnorfolk.co.uk.


You'll not be disappointed!

pink footed geese taking flight
greylag goose walking on grass

Above: pink footed geese By Gidzy from England and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons

Below: greylag goose © Isabel Bunting

Green Adventures December 2015

Ken Dykes has 40 years' experience as a journalist and is former editor of the Andover Advertiser newspaper in Hampshire, UK. He is a keen ornithologist and naturalist, and has written articles about wildlife for a range of UK magazines. His book Country Capers is a humourous account of a childhood spent in the English countryside during and after the Second World War.  

Roosting geese in Norfolk