The oldest Barnacle Goose ever recorded was seen last week at WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre on the Solway Coast. During its 30 years it will have flown well over 120,000 miles – five times the circumference of the Earth – migrating to and from its Arctic breeding grounds.
The species, whose spectacular free-falling chicks featured in the opening episode of the recent David Attenborough series Life Story, is a regular winter visitor to the Solway Coast where it has been the subject of a research project since the 1950s.
This week, observers from WWT recorded a Barnacle Goose with the orange ring marked ANS, which turned out to have originally have been caught as an adult on the birds’ breeding grounds in Svalbard in 1986, making it at least 30 years old.
Birds are caught using rocket propelled nets and fitted with coloured plastic leg rings engraved with characters that allow them to be individually identified from a distance using a telescope.
The Solway coast’s entire population of Barnacle Geese migrate to Svalbard in the Arctic to breed. It’s an annual round trip of 4,000 miles, meaning that goose ANS has clocked up 120,000 miles before accounting for its daily flights to find food and roost safely.
WWT Caerlaverock Centre Manager Brian Morrell said: ‘It’s fantastic to see this old bird still going strong and making its incredible migration across the Norwegian Sea each year. The Barnacle Geese at Caerlaverock are one of conservation’s great success stories. Creating the WWT reserve here has played a big part in bringing numbers up from a low of barely 300 back in the 1940s to a over hundred times that today.
‘Counting the geese and tracking individuals like ANS has provided critical information for helping them. In the past no one knew where the geese went in the summer and, as they were seen flying out to sea, it was assumed that they turned into barnacles, hence the name.’