Goose counting by ear

Loch Lomond NNR

It was another goose roost count earlier this week, and a new challenge. It was one of those mornings where it just never seemed to get light. I was out on the marsh by 07:00 in the morning and it was absolutely pitch black. And as time went on it became apparent that there would be no sunrise but just a very gradual turning of black, to dark blue to grey as the sun had its effect. This meant that when it got to usual goose commuting time it was still less than a half-light. This didn’t seem to worry the geese. They seem to have remarkable eyes: I often hear them travelling overhead in the dark of the night so a grey murky morning didn’t keep them in bed. But it was a problem was for me to try to count them.

With nothing discernible by eye I found myself doing everything by ear. As the geese got themselves organized and ready to move there would be a tremendous kerfuffle of noise. But just before lift off they would all go quiet followed by a sudden thundering of wings as they took to the air. I found myself comparing the noise of the groups by ear to see if I could guess the number from the noise but couldn’t really decide how many I was hearing. The different species could be told with the pinkies easily making the biggest fuss with lots of high pitch ‘winking’ while the greylags’ bass honks could just be picked out but the Greenland white fronts continued their reputation as stealth geese by making very little noise. It wasn’t until past 08:00 that it got light enough to pick geese out by sight, flying along the skyline having come off the marsh. But by this time maybe a third or even a half of the geese had already left. There must have been a lot of geese roosting this time as between 08:00 and 08:30 I was still able to count about 2000 pinkfeet, 150 greylags and 110 Greenland white-fronts on there way to some breakfast.

So despite the frustrations it was still an absolute pleasure to be out on the marsh and witness the start of a goose day.


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