Some of the north’s rarest flying visitors have arrived for their winter holiday – amid fears they may be shot by accident.
RSPB Scotland has reported that rare Greenland white-fronted geese have begun returning to Caithness.
But the birds – especially the younger ones – are not always easy to identify, leaving them potentially at risk from wildfowlers.
Their return follows an appeal last month from the RSPB, NFU Scotland and BASC for wildfowlers to take special care so that the geese are not mistaken for more common quarry species and accidentally shot.
Superintendent Colin Gough said, “This is a good example of partnership working giving practical and easily understood advice to prevent accidental shooting of these migratory birds.”
The geese have been seen at the RSPB’s Broubster Leans nature reserve, south west of Thurso, and at a number of other nearby locations.
Dave Jones, RSPB Scotland’s site manager for Caithness said: “Caithness hosts a small but important population of Greenland white-fronted geese each winter. These birds have been placed on the Red List of birds of conservation concern and they are fully protected.
“They are lively sociable birds and can usually be seen in family groups, often a mixture of adults and juveniles. The juveniles lack the distinctive white markings of the older family members which can make them more difficult to identify.
“It’s always a pleasure to watch and hear them. Their calls have a yodelling quality about them which, once learnt, is quite easy to recognise. Our reserve at Broubster Leans is a good place to see them but they are very mobile and will travel from place to place to feed and roost.
“It’s great that so many people and organisations are recognising the importance of these geese to Caithness and I hope they continue to find the county a safe winter home as they have for so many generations past.”