Greenland white-fronted geese have been seen in traditional wintering grounds in Caithness – and wildfowlers have been warned not to shoot them.

The rare birds have been seen at the RSPB’s Broubster Leans nature reserve, south west of Thurso, and at a number of other nearby locations. Last month, the RSPB , NFU Scotland and BASC issued an appeal for shooters to take special care so that the geese are not mistaken for more common quarry species.

All three organisations have been distributing specially commissioned geese identification cards to heighten awareness of the geese and help people to correctly identify them.

Police Scotland has now added its support to the initiative. 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."

RSPB Scotland’s site manager for Caithness, Dave Jones, 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.”

Copies of the geese leaflets are available from RSPB Scotland’s Golspie office (Telephone 01408 634404) and from BASC at (Telephone 01350 723226) or from the NFUS office at 4 Brabster Street, Thurso.