Pinks: Reporter David Knight

There can be no greater sight and sound during the winter months in Norfolk than those of Pink-footed Geese. I look forward to seeing and hearing them every year. The crescendo of ‘wink-wink’ calls can be heard long before their broken skeins are seen high in the sky. Although most frequently seen in the north of the county, they have occasionally been spotted passing over our mid-Norfolk village. A sight to cherish.
To quote Sir Peter Scott from his book Morning Flight (first published 1935) while living in East Lighthouse near Sutton Bridge :-
Wild Music
Sound has a powerful effect on a man’s emotions, perhaps more powerful than sight, and whether the sound is of man’s designing or of nature’s, it may bring us very near to tears by its beauty. Heard above the rushing of the wind, the cry of wild geese can be overwhelmingly sad.
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This very autumn of 1935 I saw and heard the Pinkfeet arriving from the north. We had been sitting all day in the punt. For a while the rain had ceased and there was a light patch in the watery sky, that seemed to be scurrying before the next black squall. Suddenly a goose called. Very high up in the light patch of sky were about thirty geese with set wings, swinging round on the wind. They dropped down in a great sweeping curve, blown like autumn leaves to the far side of the estuary and then working back low to settle on the top of the high sand. All that day they arrived in skeins of twenty and thirty and fifty, and all the next day too, until there were five thousand geese on the high sand. They have come south again to exist against incredible odds in a land of human beings, until the season of midnight sun thaws out their northern breeding-places. The marshes will be filled with their unparalleled music as they fly at dawn and dust. When the moon is full they will pass unseen in the steel-grey sky to their feeding grounds, but their cry will echo across the flat fields. Like a symphony of Beethoven, the call of the geese is everlasting, and those who have once known and loved it can never tire of hearing it.

And from his book Wild Chorus (first published 1938):-
The Magic Spell
They are our own pink feet, the wild geese of England and Scotland. Alaska may have its Emperor Geese, and Tasmania its Cereopsis, Hawaii its Ne-nes, and China its Kelp Geese. But we have our Pink-Feet whose chorus is the wildest and finest of all, and I think, for me, their particular magic will never lose its potency.

Very recently I was given a copy of another of his books – or should it be called a booklet- KEY TO THE WILDFOWL OF THE WORLD (published in 1949 by Severn Wildfowl Trust). This 6 inch x 9½ inch paper booklet is, again, illustrated by Peter Scott to show all the World’s wildfowl. Drawn in black and white, with faint handwritten notes annotated against every sketch, each of the twenty-three plates is signed P.S. in the bottom right-hand corner. Plate IV, in particular, shows his details of the Pink.

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