| The pink-footed geese seemed restless, as if uncertain what they were doing|
|The hide at Nigg Bay lies on the northern end of the huge Cromarty Firth, just above Inverness. The area, particularly Nigg Bay itself, is renowned for its gatherings during the winter of pink-footed geese, ducks and waders. At this time of the year the pink-footed geese are assembling prior to their migration towards breeding grounds that will include Iceland and Greenland.|
On the day I visited, the weather was squally with huge, menacing low clouds of amorphous forms that rolled in from the south-west. The ever-changing shapes seemed to spill over into the firth and it was almost as if you could sense them without actually seeing them. The frequent storms meant I did not spy the bird I had come for – skylarks – but the geese and other birds were more than compensation.
Without going to the hide the geese were by far the dominant bird both visually and vocally. Many hundreds were flying up from the mudflats and heading south-east. They were in groups, small and large, and calling all the time. A few single birds went over me and so low that I could make out their feathers. Perhaps they were going to a feeding area, or simply preparing for their final trip north, but they appeared restless, as though uncertain what they were doing.
The larger flocks seemed to vary in formation with some trying to form a skein. Their numbers seemed to make no difference to the very large numbers of geese still resting in the bay itself. Meanwhile, lapwings were displaying over the fields; these enigmatic birds in greater numbers than I have seen for some time.
The highlight of the day was just before I reached the empty hide when, low over my head and calling loudly, came two whimbrel – these wading birds flying so close that I felt I could reach out and touch them.