Dawn spectacular will usher in Northumberland's first ever Goose Festival

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One of Northumberland’s most eye-catching natural spectacles will be celebrated in a landmark event later this month.

Visitors to Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve’s inaugural Goose Festival will witness first-hand the region’s very own ‘dawn chorus’ – an event of incomparable sound and vision as thousands of over-wintering geese lift off together at sunrise on October 21 and 22.

Each autumn, wild geese arrive in the area after a long migration from the Arctic North, some travelling over 2,700km to reach the region.

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The reserve is the seasonal home of half the global population of light-bellied brent geese making their seasonal home here. Other avian visitors include pink-footed geese, barnacle geese and greylag geese, as well as eider ducks, widgeons and a plethora of wading birds.

Pink-footed geese.Pink-footed geese.
Pink-footed geese.

The National Nature Reserve team will host two sunrise events from 7am on October 21 and 22. Visitors should gather at the Budle Bay viewing platform to await the exhilarating lift of geese as they fly to their feeding grounds on the mudflats, intertidal areas and grass fields of Lindisfarne.

Afterwards, a family-friendly programme of nature-based activities will take place throughout the weekend. Visitors can help local artist Soul2Sand create large scale sand art on the North Shore of Holy Island on the Saturday from 2.30pm and on the Sunday, craft activities and games will be held at Window On Wild, Lindisfarne, from 1pm to 3pm.

Andy Denton, reserve manager at Lindisfarne NNR, said: “The Goose Festival is an opportunity to highlight the remarkable journey of the wild geese and to celebrate our deep connection with the natural world.

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“For me, the arrival of the geese heralds the start of autumn. The ‘dawn chorus’ here is a little-known wonder of nature – it really has to be seen to be believed.”

Light-bellied brent geese in flight.Light-bellied brent geese in flight.
Light-bellied brent geese in flight.

The UK is a very special haven for geese and birds, as the Gulf Stream ensures UK winters stay remarkably mild for their latitude. At Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, this means that the waterfowl and waders can access the intertidal mudflats throughout the coldest months, where they can feast on energy-rich eel grass and invertebrates.

The Reserve, together with a number of other sites along the Northumberland Coast, is also home to some of the rarest shorebirds in the UK.

Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve, which is managed by Natural England, is currently receiving additional support from the major LIFE WADER project.

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WADER is a £5.8million five-year nature recovery initiative, co-funded by the European Union. WADER (Water and Disturbance Environmental Restoration on the Northumberland coast) is also led by Natural England and brings together a range of experts to improve the ecological condition of more than 49,000 hectares of river, coastal and marine habitat and improve water quality within the River Tweed catchment and along the Northumberland Coast.

Mud flats and dunes at Budle Bay.Mud flats and dunes at Budle Bay.
Mud flats and dunes at Budle Bay.

The project has not only funded an extra full-time wildlife warden on the Reserve, but also four seasonal wardens for the summer breeding period. With so many extra staff on board, the team has been able to protect an additional 20ha of spring and summer refuges for shorebirds.

All Goose Festival events are free (donations welcome), no booking required. For more information, go to www.lindisfarnennr.blogspot.com or call the Reserve office on 01289 381470 or email [email protected]

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