Hello, I am Joe one of the two long-term volunteers spending the winter here at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond. I’ve been living on the site now for three months and have fallen in love with the reserve and its wildlife.

My role is quite varied, covering many aspects including practical conservation work, individual species monitoring and visitor engagement. One of my favourite jobs is to monitor some of the stars of our reserve, the wintering geese that feed and roost in and around the site. I love waking up every morning to the sound of several thousand geese as they leave the roost in search of feeding sites at the first signs of light.

We have four species of geese that spend the winter in this area. All but one species are migratory, heading north in March to breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland over the summer before returning to the UK in October. A lot of our work at the reserve revolves around maintaining favourable feeding grounds and roosting sites for the wintering geese as well as monitoring disturbance events. The loch is a favoured roost location because it provides safety from terrestrial predators, such as foxes. The geese also utilise temporary flooded fields on site which can provide shelter when the loch is exposed to strong winds. We conduct weekly field checks in the surrounding area by searching feeding grounds to count and age geese and conduct regular roost counts. The field checks are not always straight-forward as the geese are very shy and can seemingly disappear in an undulating field!

So what geese would you expect to see on a visit to RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond?

Pink-footed geese (affectionately known as Pinks or Pinkies) are the most numerous species on site, with over 3,000 individuals counted this winter! Pinks can be identified by their chocolate brown head and upper neck and characteristic wink-wink call. I can’t help but smile when I hear their squeaky, trumpeting call!

Two sub-species of Greater white-fronted goose winter in the UK. The Greenland race (wintering in the Loch Lomond area) make a 600-mile round trip each year to winter in Scotland and are of the highest conservation concern among Britain and Ireland’s wintering geese. Adult Greenland white-fronts can be identified by the bold black markings on the belly and white blaze surrounding the base of the orange bill. Our highest count this winter currently sits at 240 individuals (that’s up to 2% of the UK population wintering on site).

Greylag geese are our third species of ‘grey’ goose regularly seen on site. They can be recognised by their bulky size, heavy bill and raw, nasal cackling calls. At the reserve we record as many as 800 individuals during the winter. You may recognise the Greylag as the ancestor of most domestic geese.

The final species you could expect to see on the reserve is the Canada goose. This large goose has a characteristic long black neck and head, white throat patch, and classic honking call. The Canada goose is an introduced species from North America, feral and resident in the UK and Europe.

Why not visit the reserve and look out for my favourite winter visitors to the UK before they head north to Iceland and Greenland in March?

Photo by David McCullloch 

We also run staff led Guided Goose Walks at sunrise and sunset. These events offer fantastic chances to experience skeins of geese arrive or depart from one of their favourite roosting spots on the loch.

Sunset Goose Walk
Sun 24 Feb 5.15pm – 7.30pm (times tbc)
Sat 9 March 5.30pm – 8pm (times tbc)
Booking required: loch.lomond@rspb.org.uk or calling 01389830670
Cost £7.50, £6 for RSPB members.