Siberian White-fronted Geese

Migratory geese in huge numbers arrive on our coasts in the winter heading in from Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia, and even Russia. Some of them end up further inland as did this small flock of White-fronted Geese, Anser albifrons (Russian sub-species), which I photographed on farmland adjacent to RSPB Ouse Fen in Cambridgeshire. Friend Steve Rutt, author of Wintering, tells me that there has been an influx of the Russian race of this species.

The bird is bigger than a mallard duck but smaller than a mute swan. The head of the adults has a large white patch. They also have bold black belly bars and orange legs. The Siberian sun-species, pictured here, has a pink bill whereas the bill is orange in the Greenland bird. We have something like 13000 of these geese that winter from Greenland in the British Isles, the Siberian race is less common.

I got a couple of snaps of the birds on the ground from several hundred metres away before the farmer’s cropsprayer spooked them and they took to the air and headed west towards the river that divides this reserve.

The RSPB warden who gave me the ID on the geese also said a Brent Goose had been seen on the reserve and a couple of Whooper Swans. He added that there are at least five Glossy Ibis in the area. Regular readers will know I saw a couple of those rare African visitors at Ouse Fen a couple of weeks ago. There are three on Swavesey Lake. See also Cattle Egret and Great White Egret for birds ostensibly of African origin that are increasinly common in The Fens.