Barnacle Goose – 1994

Branta leucopsis – GWYDD WYRAN – Winter visitor and passage migrant. Not recorded in May and June

Mathew (1894) considered the Barnacle Goose to be a winter visitor arriving in October, while Lockley et al. (1949) cite only occasional occurrences, such as birds at Orielton and St Davids. This pattern persisted, with up to three noted in 38% of the post Lockley et al. years. Widely kept in collections throughout Britain, and with thriving feral colonies established in several places in southern England, it is likely that most, if not all, of the occasional records refer to birds of feral origin. However, a small passage has been noted in October which is more likely to concern wild birds and it was to this that Lockley et al. were referring when they noted that Barnacle Geese were “seen passing at sea off Skokholm in winter”.

A flock of about 50 settled on Ramsey Island in October and November 1968 but it is not known whether they wintered there. A few Barnacle Geese began to winter on Skomer in 1981 and by 1989 this had built up to 130 birds. They have arrived as early as 4 January and in 1989 remained until 13 April. Similar numbers frequented Bittell reservoir, Worcestershire, for a month or so before arrival in Pembrokeshire and although the area of their origin is not known the sighting of a Dutch ringed bird in the Midlands suggests that Siberia is likely. Skomer was blanketed by snow in January 1985 covering the food plants of the geese which moved to nearby Marloes Mere where grass was still exposed. They subsequently used both sites but stayed at Skomer in late March, departing during April. The flock unfortunately did not return after 1989.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

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