Does pinkies’ arrival herald a cold winter ahead in Norfolk?

Pink foot geese on the wing over Snettisham. Picture: Matthew Usher

Pink foot geese on the wing over Snettisham. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

Some believe their early arrival means a cold winter to come.But experts say ideal weather for migration is bringing pink foot geese flocking to our shores a week or two before they normally pitch up.

Large skeins have been seen over the Burnhams and shores of the Wash in recent days, as the birds forsake their summer homes in Greenland and Iceland for north Norfolk.

Small numbers of 'pinkies' usually began appearing in late September, but the main migration does not normally take place until mid to late October.

Paul Stancliffe, from the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) said: 'There's a lot of folklore about whether the arrival of the geese early is a portent of cold weather.

'Currently we have ideal conditions for these geese to cross the North Sea. There's high pressure across the continent and an easterly wind across the sea.'


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More than 350,000 of the birds make the journey to the UK each year. Mr Stancliffe said up to 30,000 would normally be expected to arrive in Norfolk this month, with a further 20,000 arriving later in the year.

Paul Eele, warden at the RSPB reserve at Snettisham, said: 'A lot of the time with pinkies it depends what the weather's like.

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'There's been a change in the wind and a few birds have started arriving but it's certainly not unusually early for them.

'The wind has changed direction, they won't migrate into a head-wind, they'll wait for a tail-wind.'

Pink foots roost on The Wash and coastal marshes, flying inland to feed on beet tops and potatoes left out on the fields by farmers.

Smaller numbers of the closely-related greylag, bean and Greenland white-fronted goose will join them around our coasts, along with barnacle and brent geese.

Farmer and naturalist Chris Skinner from Caistor St Edmund, near Norwich, said: 'Migration is a really strange thing. I've just been watching the last of the swallows go.

'If you think where we are regarding the longest day, we're about three months after it. If you go the other side of that, three months before of it, that's what triggers migration.'

Mr Skinner said shorter days and the onset of winter 2,000 miles away would trigger the birds to set off.

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