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Brent Goose

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A common winter visitor from its breeding grounds in the Arctic.


 

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Brent Goose: cometh the autumn cometh the geese

Post date: Monday, 20 October, 2014 - 00:00

When winter comes to Dorset so do the Brent geese (Branta bernicla). Having nested in Greenland and Iceland these geese make the long journey south every autumn and return to their nesting grounds in the spring. They come to the east and south coasts of England and in Dorset Christchurch Harbour, Poole Harbour and the Fleet are particular favourite winter holiday destinations!

The Brent goose is related to the more common and introduced Canada goose but it is much smaller; In fact, the Brent is hardly bigger than a shelduck. Not only is it smaller than the Canada but the distinctive white 'chin strap' is much less pronounced so you should have no trouble telling them apart even from a distance.

They are quite happy in the company of Canada geese however and mixed flocks are not unusual. They are very keen on eel grass that is exposed at low tide but in between tides they are happy browsing on rough pasture. If you visit the Middlebere Farm hide at high tide in any winter month you can often see 1,000 or so Brent geese in the field right alongside the hide. They make a wonderful sight when the take off together.


 

Brent Goose in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Friday, 4 January, 2019 - 18:20

The harbours of Dorset are important wintering havens for Brent geese and their arrival in autumn is a sure sign that winter is approaching. There are actually two different races of Brent goose that you can encounter in Dorset, the more common dark-bellied and the much scarcer pale-bellied. The dark-bellied race nest in Siberia and northern Russia and come to the east and south of England to over winter whereas the pale-bellied race are from Greenland and Spitsbergen and mainly spend their winters in Ireland but a small number end up here in Dorset each winter, mainly to the west along the Fleet. Because most tweeted reports do not differentiate between the races I make no attempt to separate them in my database of records.

The weekly reports chart show that small numbers of early arrivals start returning about week 34 in late August but the main return seems to kick off a couple of weeks later in week 36 in September and they are then regularly reported throughout the winter until the following spring when they have mostly all gone by week 17 at the end of April. A very small number of reports come in during the summer months but these are the exception and are probably of the odd bird not fit enough to travel the extreme distance to the breeding grounds.

As with many of our wintering waterfowl species the distribution map shows clusters of reports from Christchurch harbour, Poole harbour and the Fleet with odd passage sightings from other coastal locations. Whilst Ferrybridge has by far the most reports the largest population is certainly in and around Poole harbour where they are seen at nearly all of the disperate sites around the harbour from October until April each winter. They are less common in Christchurch harbour and at other sites up the Fleet.

For the best chance of seeing Brent geese I would suggest the Middlebere channel viewed from the Coombe viewpoint at Arne but at the right state of the tide obviously Ferrybridge is likely to reward you.


 

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Brent Goose
Scientific Name Branta bernicla
Status Local
Interest Level
2
Species Family Geese
Visible
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 09 - September
Preferred Environment
  • Mudflats
  • Harbours, estuaries and lagoons
Look for Smallish compact geese in large flocks
Additional Identification Notes
  • A wintering species that arrive in large numbers along the south coast in late autumn
  • Smaller than the Canada  goose and with a white mark on the neck rather than a white chin strap
  • There are various races from different parts of the Arctic, dark-bellied, pale-bellied and the black brant