Now is one of the best times to see wild geese in Scotland, as our year-round birds are joined by thousands of their cousins migrating south after spending the breeding season in the Arctic.
LOCH OF STRATHBEG, RSPB Visitor Centre, Aberdeenshire, 01346 532 017 www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/lochofstrathbeg
At the moment, home to around 53,000 pink-footed geese, more than 550 greylag geese and several hundred barnacle geese, roosting on the loch and feeding in the surrounding fields.
For a special experience, try Goose Watch 2008. Starting before dawn at the RSPB visitor centre, watch thousands of geese as they wake up and make a spectacular mass lift-off. Then join a guided walk to the Tower Pool Hide which is fantastic for geese and where many will have settled down. Booking essential.
LOCH LEVEN NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE, Kinross, 01577 864 439 www.snh.org.uk/scottish/taysclack/nnr.asp
Loch Leven is important for up to 20,000 pink-footed geese, plus a few greylags, newly arrived after breeding in Iceland and Greenland. See them roosting on St Serf's Island, on the loch, or grazing on the shoreline or fields. To watch the dawn spectacle of geese taking off for feeding grounds, head for the heritage trail around the loch.
Later, drop in to the visitors' centre at Vane Farm RSPB reserve (www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/v/vanefarm) for goose-watching in comfort. Its coffee shop has a viewing gallery with telescopes overlooking the loch.
MONTROSE BASIN, Angus, 01674 676 336 www.swt.org.uk/Montrose-Basin-Visitor-Centre
This year's autumn migration brought fantastic numbers of geese to Montrose Basin. This enclosed estuary has attracted around 39,000 pink-footed geese, approximately 10,000 of which should stay the winter.
The geese roost in the basin, taking off at sunrise to stream into the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Montrose Basin Wildlife Reserve. Prime goose-watching spots include the visitor centre, or the car park hide at the reserve.
SOLWAY FIRTH, Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, Dumfries and Galloway, 01387 770 200 www.wwt.org.uk/gallery/117/caerlaverock.html
The entire Svalbard population of barnacle geese spend their winter in this area, after breeding in the north of Norway, and two-thirds of these can often be seen from the Farmhouse Tower at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Caerlaverock Centre.
Around 18,000 of the black and white beauties are joined by a couple of thousand pink-footed geese, and lesser numbers of greylag and Canada geese. The centre has a shop and coffee shop, with hides and observation towers linked by a network of screened approaches and trails.
LOCH GRUINART, RSPB Visitor Centre, Islay, 01496 850 505 www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/lochgruinart
The area is home to around 26,000 barnacle geese, more than 350 Greenland white-fronted geese, and the odd Brent and Canada goose (pure Canada geese, not the hybrids you see in parks and on ponds). The RSPB visitors' centre has a large viewing window with great views over the grassland. Guided walks on Thursdays at 10am.