In recent years the flock has declined to the point where it is possible to go through the entire season without seeing one.

What has happened to them?

WILDFOWLING

David Tomlinson

The past decade has seen a sharp fall in the numbers of wintering whitefronts at all their traditional sites in southern England, and this has been particularly noticeable on the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire and the Swale in Kent, where flocks of several thousand birds were a feature throughout the winter.

Several other traditional sites have been abandoned, though in recent years small flocks have over-wintered in parts of East Anglia.

There has been no decline in the population of the European whitefront, which breeds on the Arctic tundra of northern Russia.

Wintering numbers have increased in the Netherlands, reflecting the birds? tendency to remain in the core area of their wintering range in response to milder winters.

Scientists describe this practice as short stopping, and a series of hard winters might cause the geese to return to England on a more regular basis.