Thursday 23 December 2010

Geese in the snow

Barnacle Geese roosting on the snow at Carnain
Barnacle Geese sitting on a snow-covered field near Tallant

Barnacle Geese on a snow-covered field at Gartmain

Most of the geese in the fields were sitting down like this

A few Greenland Whitefronts sitting on the snow.
With such an even blanket of snow over the island - something I've never seen before, as usually the snow comes with a wind and at least some fields or parts of fields are showing grass which the geese quickly find - I was interested in where they were feeding. I went out this morning not long after dawn and found about 8-9,000 Barnacles sitting around on the merse at Bridgend and along the beach around Carnain. Some were flighting inland and I followed these to find a couple more thousand sitting in snow-covered fields pecking rather desultorily at what I suppose were blades of grass that were uncovered, though I couldn't see much from the road. Another group were in a very "shaggy" field with old grass stems and leaves poking through the snow but there's no nutrition for the geese in brown grass, it has to be green to contain the starches and sugars that they can extract from it. Anyway, here are a few photos of what I saw.


  1. I was wondering Malcolm, how long can the Geese do without any good grass?

  2. Geese have been known to sit out deep snowfalls for at least 48-72 hours with no feeding, and with minimal activity, but clearly our geese are getting at least some food, and being able to feed throughout the day and night (under the full moon - we have had completely clear skies for several days) will help. Normally, a Barnacle Goose has to feed more or less constantly for 6-7 hours out of 24 in order to maintain their body weight. They can probably cope with weight losses of up to 25%. The more they cut down on activity, sitting to feed, the better.