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The beautiful village of Tattenhall in Cheshire

Geese Overhead!

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Pink foot photo (2)

Many of you will have noticed the spectacular skeins of pink-footed geese flying over the village in the mornings and evenings recently. The first photo was taken from the Sandstone Trail one misty day this week.

CLICK ON images to enlarge

The geese we see are mainly roosting in the Dee Estuary within the Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB site and fly south to graze on grain, winter cereals, potatoes and grass on the Cheshire and Shropshire farmlands during the day. While this skein is quite small, there can be many hundreds of birds flying together in spectacular formations. You can see them rising from their grazing places, grouping together and setting off for their roost most afternoons from the Sandstone Ridge. The aerodynamic shape of the formation is maintained but the lead bird continually changes to conserve energy.

The pink-footed goose is a medium-sized goose, smaller than a mute swan but bigger than a mallard. It is pinkish grey with a dark head and neck, a pink bill and pink feet and legs as can be seen in the attached images. This species does not breed in the UK, but about 400,000 birds spend the winter here, arriving from their breeding grounds in Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland. Numbers in the UK are on the increase, probably due to better protection at winter roosts. 10 years ago, none over-wintered on the Dee, but now the number has grown to about 23,000 birds.

Having spent the brief Arctic summer nesting in central Iceland, pink-footed geese take to open water and spend 25 days afloat, moulting their wing feathers before their flight south. One mid-autumn day, with the wind in the right direction, and temperature and food levels dropping, pink-footed families take off. Into the North Atlantic they fly, making landfall on the Faroe Islands six hours later, resting for a day before taking off again towards British shores. A day later, they land on our coasts.

The geese arrive during September and depart in April, but they are surprisingly active during their stay. Initially, they will graze close to their roosting site, but as food becomes scarce, they will gradually move further afield. All this intricate detail is known because a number have been tagged so that their movement can be monitored. A couple of years ago, I had access to the web-site that showed their flight patterns each day. One 'local' bird — presumably not alone — decided to spend a Christmas break in Norfolk but returned to spend New Year's Eve here in Cheshire!

For further information about the RSPB site on Deeside and details of activities still in progress CLICK HERE

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