Barnacle Geese (Photo: Laurie Campbell)
On the machair of the offshore islands in winter, the barnacle goose can be found. They are smaller than the greylag goose, with a black neck and white face, so are easy to tell apart.
They spend the summer months in Greenland, and come to Harris in autumn. Occasionally you will see one in summer that has missed migrating with the rest of the flock.
They are called Barnacle Geese because people used to think that they hatched out of barnacles. It was a mystery where they went in summer, and when they came back in winter there were young birds with the flock, so people assumed that they went out to sea and the young came from barnacles. It was not until fairly recently that it was discovered that they breed in the Arctic.
Barnacle Goose (Photo: Laurie Campbell)
Look out for their tracks on the sands in winter – their large, webbed feet make a distinctive impression on the sand.
by Alison Tyler