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Bird team watch and wait as migration starts

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By Christie Breen
Dumfries and West
Bird team watch and wait as migration starts

STAFF at the Caerlaverock wetlands centre are ‘excited but anxious’ about the return of migrating geese after being devastated by avian flu last year.

Thousands of barnacle geese died last winter at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) Caerlaverock site on the Solway Firth.

The are now returning to the site as they migrate from Svalbard, north of the Arctic Circle.

Site manager David Pickett this week said there were mixed emotions after a ‘tough winter’ last time around.

The reserve was set up in 1971 when the barnacle goose population was 3700. That number had risen to 40,000 last year.

However, it has been estimated that about a third of the 40,000-strong flock was lost last year to avain flu outbreak.

Mr Pickett said the reserve was ‘braced and waiting’ to see how many would return and how they would get on. He said: “We are now waiting to see what happens, the first about 1000 birds have turned up here just in the last week or so.

“We will be monitoring them to see whether we start to get any fatalities. We will be testing birds to see if they are dying of avian flu and we are just going to have to wait and see what actually happens.”

Meanwhile, preparations are ongoing for the region’s annual Wild Goose Festival running from October 20-30, to allow the public to watch the flight of thousands of birds landing on the reserve.

More information can be found at or via WWT Caerlaverock’s Facebook page.

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