Monday, 26 October 2015

Star Species - Light-Bellied Brent Geese

Light-bellied brent geese on the reserve JJD (C) 
On a still day during October the mud flats of Lindisfarne come alive with a low guttural ‘rhut rhut’ call which can be heard among sounds of seals and whistling of duck. This distinct call belongs to one of our smallest wintering geese - the light-bellied brent goose. About the size of a mallard this amazing bird makes a staggering journey every year to the shores of Lindisfarne to winter. Their astonishing migration takes them from their breeding grounds in Svalbard, Franz Josef Land or northeast Greenland to their wintering ground in Denmark and also here at Lindisfarne. Zostera or eel grass are one of the big draws for the geese as this is their preferred food source and Lindisfarne has the largest eel grass beds in the North of England.

Eel Grass - the main draw for brent geese.

Light bellied-brent geese in the sunshine JJD (c)

Every year Lindisfarne NNR staff carry out targeted goose counts which link into national and international data sets. These counts are extremely important in understanding population dynamics and inform future management of the species.

We also make assessments of the age of the population i.e. adult or juvenile, which can be tricky particularly after their initial arrival in September. This general involves taking cues from their plumage. Fenham-le-Moor hide is a great place to practice your aging skills and just before high tide is the time to get the best view.

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