A WAYWARD barnacle goose has made the record books after missing his normal wintering grounds in south-west Scotland and turning up a staggering 900 miles further south, in sunny Spain.
It is the furthest south that a barnacle goose has been recorded, according to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
A spokesman for the trust explained that the record-breaking goose had migrated safely for six years running between Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago north of Norway, and the WWT’s Caerlaverock Wetland Centre near Dumfries, before it failed to appear in Scotland last winter.
The spokesman continued: “With no sign of him again this winter, WWT staff feared he hadn’t survived.
“But amazingly, birdwatcher Emilio Martinez spotted the goose this week in the sunshine of the Rouxique marshes near Vigo, on north-west Spain’s Atlantic coast.
“Fellow birdwatcher Antonio Guttierez reported the goose’s leg ring, orange CBZ, which identified it as an adult male ringed by WWT at Caerlaverock Wetland Centre in 2004.”
The spokesman said the wetland centre on the Solway Firth provided protection for one of the world’s three populations of barnacle geese, which wintered on the Solway Firth and spent the summers in Svalbard.
The WWT’s ringing work originally identified three separate populations on the firth; the other two breed in Greenland and Siberia.
The WWT’s protection has helped the Svalbard/Solway Firth population to recover from just 300 in the 1940s to a thriving group of 30,000 birds today.
Dr Larry Griffin, the WWT’s principle species research officer at the Caerlaverock Wetland Centre, said: “We’re gobsmacked. Barnacle geese have a tough life facing extreme weather and food scarcity so we had started to assume this one hadn’t made it.
“To find out he’s actually made a record journey south and been sunning himself in Spain is amazing.”
He explained: “By ringing the wild birds under our protection, we can find out where they go and where they might need further protection.
“We’re hugely indebted to birdwatchers like Emilio and Antonio, who record the leg rings they spot and let us know where the birds have got to.
“It’s possible that orange CBZ was disoriented by the recent bad weather. He’ll need to rest and feed himself up after such a long journey.
“Once he leaves Spain, we’ll be keeping a special eye out to see if he returns to the Costa del Solway.”
In the past, because they were never seen in summer, barnacle geese were believed to be born of driftwood.
Other migrating species arriving at WWT’s nine Wetland Centres across the UK as the season changes include whooper swans, pink-footed and white-fronted geese, bitterns, teal and shoveler ducks, and gadwall.