Last week we visited the Caerlaverock Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) Centre (only a ten minute drive from the Flat) and met with Dr Larry Griffin, Principal Research Officer, who told us that there are currently 45,000 Barnacles wintering around the Solway. This is pretty amazing considering that back in the 1940s there were only around 300.
Peter Scott established WWT Caerlaverock in 1971 and this hugely improved the fortunes of the geese as it provided an undisturbed refuge and good feeding conditions after the long migration from Svalbard in Norway to Caerlaverock – nearly 3000 kms.
WWT use satellite transmitters attached as backpacks to larger male birds and have been able to track their journey from Norway to Scotland. They even managed to chart the devastating effect of a strong Atlantic storm on two of the geese and saw one bird struggle with gale force winds for six days before reaching his destination!
Earlier this year I spotted a lone Barnacle on the shore right outside the Flat – usually you see them in large numbers on the opposite side of the river. I noticed it was ringed and with the help of my telescope took a note of the colour/number/letters on the ring and sent the details to Larry. He told me that the bird was last seen in January 2016 in a similar location. It was ringed on 24th July 1998 as a juvenile female at Ny Aalesund. Isn’t it amazing to have a 20 year old barnacle goose right outside your front door that has flown back and forth from Svalbard all those years!
The Barnacles arrive in October and stay until April and although a visit (or more than one) to WWT Caerlaverock is essential for keen birdwatchers, you can see great goose fly-pasts from the Flat window. RSPB at Mersehead is also a good place to see barnacles and other birdlife – about a 40 minute drive from Glencaple.
So come and stay in the Flat and enjoy a fabulous birding experience!