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Calling out to us across a noisy human world

PUBLISHED: 10:18 29 November 2017

A pink-footed goose come into roost near Fakenham,

A pink-footed goose come into roost near Fakenham,

Archant © 2011

In the countryside: Mike Toms enjoys the sounds and sights of migrating birds to Norfolk.

As I walk back to the cottage, climbing up from town in the gloom of early evening, I become aware of the geese calling from the darkness overhead. It is one of those winter evenings where the damp of day coalesces into a fog that shortens horizons and muffles distant sounds. It is the first evening this winter that I have heard the geese over Fakenham, and I wonder if these are birds that have become disoriented by the weather conditions and the accompanying reduction in visibility.

The soft calls reveal that these are pink-footed geese and not the noisy greylags that might otherwise be expected this far from the coast. I wonder where they heading and from where they have come. Is this a feeding flock heading back to the coast and to a secure roost site, or are these newly-arrived birds that have overshot their intended destination?

Later in the evening I hear more geese and, alongside them, the calls of migrating redwings with their thin ‘seeping’ calls that I always associate with this time of the year. These will not be the only birds on the move tonight and I suspect that up there in the darkness above the town will be woodcock, fieldfare and other species continuing the onwards journeys that will see them settle on wintering sites further south.

There is so much background noise in our lives – from the television that sits in the corner of most front rooms, to the passing cars and planes – that the sounds of migrating birds have become largely lost to us. It is only in those brief moments of silence that the sounds of nature once again come to the fore. It would be wrong to say that, at such moments, the flight calls of these birds intrude into our lives, since this would suggest that they are unwelcome.

Instead, they remind us of the natural world from which we have become increasing separated. Their presence is a reassuring sound, emphasising that all is right with the world and that the progression of the seasons is being marked by birds and animals still attuned to what the change in seasons represents.

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