Pink-footed Geese

Anser brachyrhynchus

After the eider, the pink-footed goose is the signature bird on the Basin. The sounds of the birds returning from the breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland heralds the coming of autumn to all who live in and around Montrose. The number of “pinkfeet” wintering in the UK have been rising steadily over the past 20 years and the record number of geese on the Basin has been broken nearly every year from 2010-2017

The pattern of arrival is similar each year, with a small number seen around 14th September followed by maximum numbers in the middle of October. At the official October census of pinkfeet, coordinated by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (see foot of page), the Basin holds about 13% of the total Icelandic population (over 500,000 in 2019).

The actual arrival dates and the maximum numbers seen is dependent on the weather and the availability of food. The birds will wait for a favourable weather system to assist their flight from the North West arctic regions. If they are "blocked" by adverse weather, then they may arrive later and in greater numbers. If there is plenty of food available (grain, grass and potatoes) then they will remain in the area for longer leading to a build-up of numbers. It has been found that pinkfeet have large feeding areas - from 21-69 sqKm, although they have a core area which they visit more often, probably in a 20Km circle around the Basin.

Eventually, they will continue their migration to Morecombe Bay and The Wash and the numbers on the Basin will fall to only a few thousand in December and January. The return to the arctic breeding grounds happens imperceptively with counts fading away during February and March to leave only a few birds which might stay all summer. These are weak or injured birds that cannot make the migration flight.

Recent Pink-footed Goose Counts

2017/182018/192019/202020/21
-
-
1st Sept 2019 -
39
-
-
-
3rd Sept 2019 -
42
-
-
-
4th Sept 2019 -
360
-
-
-
6th Sept 2019 -
1,215
7th Sept 2020 -
A few
13th Sept 2017 -
c.400
13th Sept 2018 -
c.600
13th Sept 2019 -
4,073
10th Sept 2020 -
5,500
16th Sept 2017 -
1,600
-
16th Sept 2019 -
Over 12,000
-
17th Sept 2017 -
2,201
17th Sept 2018 -
4,000
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
24th Sept 2018 -
24,000
24th Sept 2019 -
c. 50,000
24th Sept 2020 -
15,000
-
-
-
-
-
28th Sept 2018 -
50,170
27th Sept 2019 -
47,755
27th Sept 2020 -
13,000
3rd Oct 2017 -
c.20,000
2nd Oct 2018 -
c.70,000
1st Oct 2019 -
c. 60,000
2nd Oct 2020 -
77,200
6th Oct 2017 -
58,324
5th Oct 2018 -
75,000
4th Oct 2019 -
55,326
-
12th Oct 2017 -
c70,000
12th Oct 2018 -
49,104
11th Oct 2019 -
50,585
12th Oct 2020 -
84,400
20th Oct 2017 -
47,273
18th Oct 2018 -
78,300
17th Oct 2019 -
c. 66,000
18th Oct 2020 -
55,980
22nd Oct 2017 -
50,309
21st Oct 2018 -
24,932
20th Oct 2019 -
66,575
-
23rd Oct 2017 -
c.80,000
-
-
31st Oct 2020 -
c. 60,000
3rd Nov 2017 -
c.15,000
-
11th Nov 2019 -
c. 33,000
7th Nov 2020 -
c. 40,000
19th Nov 2017 -
7,872
21st Nov2018 -
c.20,000
24th Nov 2019 -
33,479
22nd Nov 2020 -
c. 6,500
28th Nov 2017 -
c.12,000
-
-
-
4th Dec 2017 -
c.15,000
-
-
-
28th Dec 2017 -
c.10,000
21st Dec 2018 -
4,700
-
-
-
2nd Jan 2019 -
c.7,000
-
-

Highest number for each year in BOLD.

It has been found that some of the non-breeding pinkfeet fly from Iceland to Greenland to moult, while the others stay and moult in Iceland. It is thought that the greater availability and quality of grass available in Greenland makes the effort of flying 1,200Km worthwhile.

The best place to to see the large flocks of geese is from the viewing blind at Tayock. While there may be some on the Basin during daytime, the best times are at first light when the roosting birds take off (en masse if you are lucky) or at sunset when they flock in to roost overnight.

Comparative Monthly Counts

These are the largest count for each month.

  Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr
1984/85     9,500          
1986/87   12,600            
1987/88   c. 37,000            
1993/94   c. 41,000            
1995/96   28,500 c.15,000 c.15,000        
1998/99 8,000 26,200 33,012 29,707 21,100 19,255 959 2,720
1999/2000 11 18,480 16,881 6,798 5,854 920    
2000/01 10,000 29,922 11,145 7,706 5,490 6,929    
2001/02   38,669 9,043 10,343        
2002/03 15,100 1,400            
2003/04 14,000 15,000 10,149 7,500 4,500 4,100 5,000  
2004/05 20,000 31,896 21,250 16,944 8,500 5,500 3,500 2,000
2005/06 10,000 28,000 30,000 16,017 7,000 4,000 5,100  
2006/07 6,500 25,000 15,246 12,000 4,500 4,100 3,722 2,350
2007/08 30,000 35,000 11,000 6,200 3,935 3,000 1,695  
2008/09 27,000 45,000 11,287 7,676 4,500 13,028    
2009/10 19,073 51,000 29,981 21,500 7,500 7,000    
2010/11 20,000 65,060 36,195 12,259 19,350 952 553 2,000
2011/12 5,200 63,356 23,090 25,391 7,699 3,148    
2012/13 63,844 43,575 31,180 38,814 c.8,000      
2013/14 12,400 46,769 20,804 7,404 4,000   1,300  
2014/15 c.30,000 78,970 32,729 12,000 c.8,000   1,901  
2015/16 c.50,000 85,632 32,926          
2016/17 c.23,000 c.90,000+ 38,038          
2017/18 2,201 c.80,000 c.15,000 c.15,000        
2018/19 50,170 78,300 c.20,000 4,700 c.7,000      
2019/20 47,755 66,575 33,479          

Numbers in Bold are the yearly maximum.


The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust co-ordinate the census of Iclandic geese and their website holds all the relevant data.