Heaven hounds in full cry as geese head for Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:33 12 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:57 12 September 2020

Hundreds of pink footed geese taking off. Picture: Ian Burt

Hundreds of pink footed geese taking off. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

When you hear the Heaven hounds, you know autumn’s on its way.

Pink footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Andy_OxleyPink footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus). Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Andy_Oxley

Pink footed geese have began to arrive on the north Norfolk coast.

Around 50 have been seen at Holkham and on the marsh at Titchwell in recent days.

Soon thousands more will make the long flight south from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland.

Some 350,000 of the birds spend the winter in the UK. Many return to The Wash each year.

The Pink Footed Geese fly over Snettisham RSPB reserve at as the sun rises. Picture Matt UsherThe Pink Footed Geese fly over Snettisham RSPB reserve at as the sun rises. Picture Matt Usher

The sight and sound of the great flocks taking off from the beach at Snettisham is one of Norfolk’s greatest natural spectaculars.

They fly inland to their feeding grounds in V-shaped skeins as dawn breaks.

Each bird’s slipstream helps the one behind to fly, with the strongest at the front and those at the rear squealing encouragement.

The birds eat potatoes, beet tops and other greens, tucking in across a wide swathe of Norfolk from the north coast to the deepest Fens.

Pink footed geese. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Simon11ukPink footed geese. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Simon11uk

At dusk, the skies fill with their calls. The legendary countryside writer BB likened the racket to a pack of hounds in full cry across the heavens.

On foggy nights, as winter swirls, the mists seem to eerily amplify the sound as the geese howl overhead.

It echoes down the chimneys, sounding as if the birds are about to land on the roof.

In the 1940s geese and all their glories helped to inspire the conservationist and artist Sir Peter Scott to set up the Severn Wildlife Trust, which went on to become the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.

Today, he is regarded by many as the founder of the global conservation movement.

Sir Peter left his lighthouse beside the Nene on the Norfolk - Lincolnshire border to lead expeditions, including one to find the pink foots’ breeding grounds in Iceland in 1951.

Today the birds still inspire us as they set off on their 1,000-mile flight to our shores.

Their calls will soon form the soundtrack as the nights start drawing in.

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