Birds of a feather flock together

The mudflats in Snettisham may not seem a likely location for one of Norfolk’s must-see winter events. But that’s reckoning without some 40,000 geese…

Between November and late January the pink-footed goose roosts in North Norfolk, flying south from Iceland in September and stopping off in Scotland and Lancashire on the way. Each morning they take off in search of food – and create an amazing visual display.

And the good news is that you can watch it all happen. The team at the RSPB’s Titchwell and Snettisham reserve see the birds come and go every year and they have more information on how you can have a gander at the geese.

Pink-footed geese taking to the skies in droves – a familiar sight in North Norfolk during winter. Credit: Ian-S

Here in North Norfolk we’re lucky to have one of the UK’s most spectacular natural sights right on our doorstep.

Every year thousands of pink-footed geese make their way to Snettisham to roost in the winter, arriving in late autumn with most birds moving back north around the end of January.

Every day at dawn, they all take flight at once to produce the breathtaking spectacle of a huge cloud of up to 40,000 geese flying overhead in V-formations and calling loudly.

The geese roost on the mudflats in Snettisham overnight to avoid predators, such as foxes, but as soon as it becomes light enough to feed, they take off in search of leftovers from the nearby sugar beet harvest and return at dusk.

The chance to witness the geese in full flight comes complete with a walk from the RSPB car park at the end of Beach Road and the best viewing points are about a 2.5 mile walk away. For a route from the car park and where to go to watch the spectacular – click here.

We would urge people to bring a torch and a sturdy pair of boots as it will be dark on the way there and the path can become muddy. However, if you do bring a torch then we ask that you switch it off when you get to the beach so that it doesn’t disturb the birds.

As you might expect, you’ll need to make an early start to catch the spectacular in action but once you see the birds in full flight you’ll realise it’s worth getting out of bed for.

Just one of thousands of geese that flock to North Norfolk during the winter months. Credit: Anita363

Natural events like this don’t run on a strict timetable so unfortunately we can’t guarantee that the geese will leave at exactly the same time every morning. For example, if it’s particularly a cold or clear morning then they tend to set off earlier.

However, we generally advise people to leave the car park at 7am. The walk usually takes around 20 minutes and this will allow ample time to arrive at the beach to catch the geese flying off.

On days where there is a full moon, it is lighter during the night hours and around these dates the movement of the geese becomes unreliable. We don’t want anyone going home without witnessing the spectacular so we have provided a list of all the available dates and further information on when it occurs here.

The best place to stand for great views of the geese is near the Rotary Hide for them taking off, or by the Shore Hide to see them flying overhead (again, you can check our map for further information).

It’s not often you get to view a natural phenomenon like this so make sure you take the opportunity to witness the spectacular in Norfolk this winter to save yourself a wild goose chase.

For further information on the spectacular, you can call us at the Titchwell and Snettisham reserve on 01485 210779.

Snettisham isn’t the only place in North Norfolk where you can see the geese – Holkham and Scolt Head have their own spectaculars, just click the links for more information.

Any other wild and wonderful creatures in Norfolk you think we should know about? Just leave a comment below – or if you have a photo of wildlife in our county that you want to share, you can do so through the Norfolk Winter Flickr group.

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