Numbering approximately 350,000 they arrive in Scotland on Strathbeg Loch and the Montrose Basin, many flying onwards to historical sanctuaries on Moercombe Bay in Lancashire and the Wash in Lincolnshire/Norfolk.
I had only ever seen 'Pinks' twice before - once on a business trip outside of Edinburgh and then at Easter over in Galloway near Stranraer as they prepared to migrate North. Smaller than our Greylags and feral Canada geese these gregarious and characterful birds are much loved and admired by Wildfowlers and many will travel through night and day upon receipt of an invite or book B&Bs, guides and passes with loved ones to get an opportunity under them.
I was just so lucky back in October when a sporting journalist kindly invited myself and our club chairman to shoot a Southerly marsh on Morecombe bay in the hope of bagging my first Pinkfoot.
So, travelling up from Gloucester the evening before we arrived late evening with a 4.30am start ahead - I went to a troubled sleep dreaming of what might occur in a few hours time.
Still fuzzy from a short night we arrived in the dark, a keen wind blowing off the bay and carrying with it the unmistakable "wink wink" of thousands of geese settled on the mudflats and sand spars. So we walked a short distance and crossed the sea wall over into the merse and muddy creeks heading for a junction between three streams that drain the marsh upon each tide and settling down in some lovely wet, thick and sticky marsh mud amongst the sea purslane and samphire.
Light started to creep in from the peaks overlooking the Lake District to the East and the geese, every few minutes, would have a fit of calling as they prepared to flight in to feed on the fields a few miles inland. It made you smile, it sent adrenalin coursing and a surreal sense of anticipation of witnessing something truly magical.
As day broke all of a sudden there was a crescendo of calls from the main flock of birds half a mile out to our left and the entire roost, numbering 20,000 birds rose in a black cloud and started circling - I was awestruck and felt lucky to be alive and in this moment (search you tube or google to get an idea of the clamour). They settled soon enough but a magical spell was cast.
They didn't come over us but in a long, ever sinewing skein made safe height and crossed into the sunrise behind us.
Somewhat out of the blue a solitary goose rose a quarter of a mile out and crossed low across the marsh, making a bee-line for the muddy bend in which I was hiding. Responding to our calls it came ever closer but my legs had gone to sleep in kneeling for two hours. Crouching I slipped one leg behind me and down into the gutter to steady myself as the moment, that moment arrived. At 35 yards I raised the gun and pulled through it's dark form. The 1 1/2 oz of No.2 hevi density (non toxic) shot found it's mark and the goose spiralled towards us, landing in the gutter water just a couple of metres away.
Pressure off, elation, satisfaction, disbelief - joyous feelings as the dog had one of its easiest retrieves to deliver my first Pinkfoot to hand. A beautiful young bird, gratefully taken and due the highest honour at the table at Christmas.
No other chances came that flight, a shame for my club colleague with his beautiful double 8 bore. So we sat and watched spellbound as skein after skein of these magnificent birds flighted inland in numbers from 10 to 200 for hour upon hour.
It took me two nights at home to rid my ears of that wonderful noise but I'll never forget this experience - the wonder and sheer magnitude of witnessing and harvesting from one of natures spectacles on our doorstep.
It's something you just have to witness for yourself...