Five hundred Greenland white-fronted geese touched down in Wexford last week following a treacherous 15 hour flight.
The visitors are some of the first of this year’s migrants to flock to Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, with an estimated 7,500 more of the species expected to fly in over the next few weeks.
‘It was a great sight to see them coming in,’ said Education Officer at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve John Kinsella. ‘At about half seven or eight in the morning, we could see them in the air flying over the Raven Woods before they landed next to the pond here.’
It was no easy feat for the birds to get here. According to John, the birds were subjected to strong winds, a non-stop flight and significant weight loss to reach their winter home.
‘They burn off half a kilo on the flight. That’s like us losing two stone,’ he said.
Over the next eight weeks, the remaining white-fronted geese will arrive in Wexford, where they will settle down until March. However, they cannot begin their journey until the wind direction changes to blow from the north.
‘The flight takes from 15 to 18 hours so they need the wind behind them to be able to do it,’ said John.
The Greenland white-fronted goose breeds in west Greenland and migrates via Iceland to winter in Ireland and Britain. They winter at less than ten sites in Ireland and the Wexford Slobs record the highest numbers.
Several thousand brent geese are also expected to arrive in the coming weeks and at peak time, John expects there to be a total of ’25 tons of geese’ on the lake at the Wildfowl Reserve.
In honour of the arrival of the birds, several events as part of Goose Week were organised by the Wexford Wildfowl reserve. These included dawn and evening watches and a walk at the Raven to see geese rise from their roost.
Hen harriers, godwits and plovers are some of the other birds observed.
(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/geese-flock-into-wexford-for-the-winter-35176442.html)