Basin breaks record as 80,000 pink-footed geese make Montrose rest and refuel stop

© Harry Bickerstaff

A remarkable 80,000 pink-footed geese have flocked to Angus in a record-breaking influx to the Montrose Basin wildlife reserve.

The arrival of the Icelandic visitors is an annual highlight at the Scottish Wildlife Trust attraction, and rangers believe the birds hit the massive total at the beginning of this week, with previous counts suggesting numbers are well up on last year.

Some of the geese have already moved on from Angus to head further south, carried on the recent strong winds which were the remnant of ex-Hurricane Ophelia.

Volunteers led by reserve rangers took part in the annual UK-wide Icelandic-breeding goose census at first light on Sunday morning.

The Angus enthusiasts logged a total of 50,309 pink foot, compared to last year’s return of 42,840. However, with geese still arriving from Iceland, Basin estimated their numbers at a staggering 80,000 just a day later.

Montrose Basin ranger Anna Cheshier said: “The noise of the geese has been building on the Basin and in the skies over Montrose as more and more birds arrive from the Arctic.

“Their continued high numbers show that the surrounding farmland is providing plenty of food.

“The number of the geese on the Basin at any one time is highly variable.

“Most of the geese at Montrose Basin are passing through on their way south, and while geese are still arriving here many took advantage of the recent strong winds last week caused by ex-Hurricane Ophelia to help them move on.”

Pink-footed geese make an annual 1,200 kilometre migration from Iceland to the UK and the Basin is one of the first suitable stops for them to take a breather after their North Sea crossing.

The reserve has therefore become an annual rest and refuelling stop before the birds continue their journey to estuaries in the east of England.

Earlier this month People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast and Pink Sunset events were a sell out at the Angus reserve as visitors clamoured to get a close-up view of the large numbers.

The Basin visitor centre is open daily from 10.30am to 5pm until the end of this month and then Friday to Monday in November.