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Record-breaking Brent geese return

By Linda McKee

Published 19/11/2007

Brent geese have flocked back to Strangford Lough in their thousands - breaking all records for previous years.

Thanks to a hugely successful breeding season, numbers peaked at 29,400 in early October as the intrepid geese touched down after migrating 6,000 miles from their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.

However, the huge flocks are now starting to get smaller as the geese gradually disperse and move to sites further south.

Experts at WWT Castle Espie Wetland Centre on the lough have put the huge numbers down to an excellent breeding season for pale-bellied Brent geese.

A spokesperson said: "The warm Arctic summer contributed to more young being born.

"Between 20% and 25% of the geese arriving on Strangford are young birds making the journey for the first time. Most survived the long flight as there were fewer storms on the crossing."

The Brent geese are one of Northern Ireland's great conservation success stories. Almost the entire world population returns to Strangford Lough every winter and there were fears for their future some years ago as numbers dropped to around 10,000.

To celebrate the arrival of the geese and to encourage people to view the returning birds at Castle Espie, a large Brent goose, created by artist Jim Russell and sponsored by Bombardier, was set up in a field off the dual carriageway between Comber and Newtownards.

For further information contact Castle Espie on 9187 4146.

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