Thursday, 2 April 2020

G is for Geese

Please remember! We ask that people do not visit the Reserve particularly if you have to travel. All car parks on Holy Island are closed to visitors until government restrictions are lifted. Many residents on Holy island fall into the vulnerable category. Please adhere to these guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and others during this time.
Every Autumn the intertidal areas of Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve come alive with the sound of thousands of Geese. Seeing and hearing thousands of birds flying in and out of the Reserve every morning and evening is truly one of Britain’s greatest wildlife spectacles and makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck!  Light-bellied Brent Geese are the stars of the show with up to half of the East Atlantic population migrating to the Reserve. They aren’t the only species with Barnacle, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese making up a strong supporting cast, the latter occurring in internationally important numbers. Every year a handful of White-fronted Geese can also be spotted.

Brent Geese flying across Budle Bay ©JJD
Why do these birds migrate thousands of miles to our shores? Well this is due to the UK being uniquely situated on the gulf and jet stream, bathing us in warm waters from the Caribbean and a prevailing wind from the mild south-west. This effects our weather and results in the UK having much milder winters than anywhere else of the same latitude such as the tundra of Canada and Russia. It means that the UK is the closest place where species of Geese can migrate to where the vital feeding grounds are rarely frozen.

Barnacle Geese ©JJD
Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve is a favoured area in the UK due to the vast intertidal areas offering large areas to feed and roost throughout the winter. The Light-bellied Brent Geese migrate to the Reserve from their breeding grounds in northern Greenland and Svalbard to feed on the eel grass beds that are prevalent across the intertidal areas.

Light-bellied Brent Geese feeding in the intertidal area ©JJD

Each year we undertake routine geese counts and take part in the Grey Goose counts that are co-ordinated across the country to monitor the populations that are using the Reserve. We also undertake age assessments of Light-bellied Brent Geese. This helps us ascertain summer breeding success as breeding areas are inaccessible to monitor. Assessments this year suggested that it had been a good breeding season for the Brent Geese.

At this time of year the majority of Geese have headed back north to breed although there is a few stragglers still on the Reserve. Hopefully by the time they return we will be back to some sense of normality!

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