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A RECORD number of barnacle geese have arrived at RSPB Scotland's Mersehead reserve in Dumfries and Galloway this autumn – 11,070 – rising from their 2016 peak of 10,035.
RSPB Scotland described the numbers as a 'great sign' that the Solway population of barnacle geese is continuing to recover, after hitting a low point of only around 400 birds just after the Second World War.
Barnacle geese are black and white birds, with a call a bit like a dog barking, which winter at sites around the Solway before returning to their Arctic breeding grounds 2000 miles away in Svalbard in the spring.
Eagle-eyed nature lovers may also spot one or two white geese in with the flock at Mersehead, which are barnacle geese with a condition called leucism. Similar to albinism, these leucistic birds have extremely pale, almost white plumage, but unlike true albino birds, which are extremely rare in the wild, they have black eyes, beaks and legs. Only two leucistic barnacle geese have been seen at Mersehead this autumn, though in previous years up to four have been recorded.
RSPB Scotland warden at Mersehead, Rowena Flavelle, said: “It’s great to see the geese back, and fantastic to see the population doing so well. We always look forward to seeing them on the reserve, and when you hear them coming in, you know that autumn has well and truly arrived.