Glasgow & West Scotland

Record barnacle goose numbers land at Loch Gruinart

Barnacle geese at RSPB Scotland Loch Gruinart - Crystal Maw, RSPB Scotland
Image caption Barnacle geese are small geese with distinctive black and white markings and a call like a yappy dog.

A record number of barnacle geese have arrived at a nature reserve on Islay, according to RSPB Scotland.

The nature charity said it had counted more than 35,000 of the geese at its Loch Gruinart reserve.

It is the second year running that the number of barnacle geese has topped their records after 28,000 landed at the reserve in 2010.

The barnacle geese that winter in the Hebrides breed in Greenland and travel 2,000 miles (3,218km) to reach Islay.

Loch Gruinart reserve is considered an ideal staging point for them, as they can feed on the large areas of grassland, and take refuge on the saltmarsh and mudflats.

'Wall-to-wall feathers'

The birds were counted in RSPB Scotland's regular October surveys.

Jack Fleming, RSPB Scotland area manager, said: "We've got wall-to-wall feathers at the reserve at the moment, it's absolutely incredible.

"This isn't a sign that the overall population of barnacle geese has suddenly had a dramatic increase.

"It's just that the feeding conditions at the reserve, and probably the weather conditions while the birds were migrating, have brought more of the existing population here at the same time.

"Many of these birds will now disperse to different areas over the next few weeks, leaving us with around 25,000 regularly using the roost at Loch Gruinart - still a remarkable spectacle morning and evening!"

Barnacle geese, known as 'barnies' by birdwatchers, are small geese with distinctive black and white markings and a call like a yappy dog.

They have been joined at Loch Gruinart by about 400 Greenland white-fronted geese, a grey goose that only winters in very restricted areas of Scotland.

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