A wildlife conservation charity and two countryside organisations have come together to highlight the presence of rare Greenland white-fronted geese in Caithness. About 200 of these scarce visitors spend the winter months in Caithness each year and RSPB Scotland, NFU Scotland and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation are urging their members and supporters to keep an eye out for them. The organisations have produced a special leaflet on Greenland white-fronted geese which they hope will help wildfowlers, birdwatchers and farmers identify the different types of geese that visit Caithness.
RSPB Scotland's Alison Searl said, "Greenland white-fronted geese are a protected species that are in rapid decline. A small but very important population of these geese regularly spend the winter months on farmland in Caithness. The adults have a very distinctive white blaze of feathers around the bill and black-streaked under-parts. With a reasonable view the adults can be easily distinguished from the much more common greylag and pink-footed geese that also spend their winters in Caithness. Unlike Greenland white-fronted geese, these two species are legal quarry when in season.
"The juvenile white-fronted geese, however, lack the distinctive markings of the adults and could quite easily be mistaken for these other types of geese and accidentally shot by wildfowlers. We want to raise awareness of their presence to avoid any possibility of this happening as every extra accidental death really matters in this threatened population."
Donald Muir of BASC Scotland said, "BASC Scotland are ensuring that resident wildfowlers and those visiting Caithness are aware that there are juvenile white-fronted geese in the area that could be mistaken for legitimate quarry species. The BASC wildfowling code of practice makes it clear that if there is any doubt as to the identity of the bird - do not shoot. We are promoting and circulating the ID guide to remind wildfowlers of the markings to look out for."
Ian Wilson of NFU Scotland said, "The farmland of Caithness is rich in wildlife and local farmers are proud that it provides a refuge for these special birds during the cold months when they migrate here from the Arctic. We fully support the advice that BASC and RSPB Scotland are providing to help our members stay within the law and prevent the accidental shooting of any Greenland white-fronted geese."
Copies of the leaflets are available from RSPB Scotland's Golspie office (Telephone 01408 634404) and from BASC at firstname.lastname@example.org(Telephone 01350 723226) or from the NFUS office at 4 Brabster Street, Thurso.