Goose counting – who dares wins

Loch Lomond NNR

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It is goose counting time again. Last month Paul Roberts got up early, got wet, fell asleep in the rain and saw 19 geese. He decided not to come this month. Well, it is a case of who dares wins and he missed a spectacular morning. Some 3000 geese were counted by SNH and RSPB on both sides of the Endrick, 5 species of geese in all. On the north side of the NNR, I was in place in the dark, crunching over the frozen ground to get close to the loch edge. The sunrise was exquisite and there were sounds of geese all around. The Pink feet were the early risers, followed by Greylags, Greenland white fronts, Barnacle geese and lastly the lazy Canada geese. Just about 1000 geese were counted on the north side in cold but beautiful conditions.

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But on the walk back to the truck was a bonus. The most important geese found at Loch Lomond are the Greenland white fronted geese. There are only about 26,000 of this sub species of White fronted geese in the world and they are declining in numbers because they are not producing enough young. At Loch Lomond 200-300 birds winter on the loch, roosting at night on the reserve and feeding in surrounding fields during the day.  And there in the field next to where I had parked the truck was 120 Greenland white fronts. They are striking geese with a carrot orange bill, striking white forehead and ‘tiger stripes’ across their bellies. They are also extremely wily, they are experts at hiding in folds of land and in patches of rushes and are very difficult to get close to. So to be able to watch 120 quietly feeding amongst a few Canada geese was a real treat.

I spent a bit of time carefully checking each goose through the telescope because there are some geese in the Loch Lomond area that have had neck collars attached when they were young. This is a way of tracking birds to see where they migrate to. A keen volunteer, Jack Brown who lives in the area, regularly checks the feeding geese and has found 2 birds with neck collars. From reading the numbers on the collars we are able to tell that :

Orange X3C is a male bird caught on March 2012 in its first winter in Wexford, Ireland where a large percentage of the population of these birds winter but has wintered at Loch Lomond for the following 5 years.

Greenland whitefront collared X3C - Middle Gartocharn Farm - Jack Brown -01 (A850592)

Photo by Jack Brown

Orange Y0S is a male bird that was caught in its first winter in 2016/17 again at Wexford in Ireland.  It has now appeared in the Loch Lomond wintering flock for the first time and it will be interesting to see if it keeps coming back each winter.

 

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Photo by Jack Brown

We know that once geese have paired up they stay faithful to both their partner and the wintering site. So it seems that these 2 Irish males might have found Scottish partners and moved to be with them, not the first time this has happened!

There were no collared geese in this group but it was a pleasure to stop and watch them feed for a while before heading back to the truck and coming back down to earth to find that England had lost the Ashes. Oh, well…

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