Back to blog
12th October 2023

World Migratory Bird Day – 14 October 2023

October 14th is World Migratory Bird Day 2023 and the theme this year is water. The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere is home to a variety of important habitats for migratory birds, from the marine region and coast to the wetland areas inland. Below we’re spotlighting some of these birds you can see across the GSA Biosphere, as well as some events coming up. 

Pink-footed geese from Iceland migrate inland, to fields and waterbodies and across the Biosphere region.  They are the earliest geese to arrive, with non-breeding birds arriving in late August/September. They make a distinctive high pitched ‘squealing’ call as they fly over in v-shaped skeins. Loch Ken is home to thousands of pink-footed geese, greylag geese and the rare Greenland white-fronted goose. These latter make the long journey from Greenland, stopping off at Iceland, then across to Dumfries & Galloway. It’s crucial we protect and manage these waterbodies and sites sustainably to help support and encourage these species. To find out more about the geese that migrate to our region, Dr Larry Griffin has written a article for the Wild Goose Festival about goose movements and how these are impacted by climate change. The wonderful photo we’re using here shows a family of greylag geese, photographed by the GSAB team during spring.

With the Biosphere recently expanding to include the Rhins of Galloway and 12 nautical miles of marine environment, areas like Loch Ryan and Ailsa Craig have been taken in. These areas are particularly important for migratory birds, from the puffins who use Ailsa Craig as a breeding site during the summer, to the wigeon duck, which overwinters across our coastlines after flying over from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia. At Loch Ryan, we’re lucky enough to have a small overwintering of light-bellied Brent geese, which migrate 5,000km from Canada each year. If you’d like to learn more about these birds, and others that visit Loch Ryan, you can attend the GSA Biosphere’s Birding for Brents event at Loch Ryan, Stranraer on the 21st October between 1-4pm, part of this year’s Wild Goose Festival. Tickets are available here.

Another landmark event during the Wild Goose Festival (19th to 29th October) is the Artful Migration Conference. Organised by arts development organisation Upland, this event will explore artistic practices with migratory patterns, and has an array of guest speakers including Sacha Dench, Chris Freemantle, and the GSA Biosphere’s Director Ed Forrest. Tickets for Artful Migration can be booked here.

We’re also lucky enough to have some fantastic nature reserves across our Biosphere region that are worth a visit at this time of year with good opportunities to see some of our migratory birds. Knockshinnoch Lagoons at New Cumnock is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, and the RSPB manage reserves at Crook of Baldoon, the Mull of Galloway, and Ken-Dee Marshes, to name just a few. Take a look at our Adventures in Nature page and The Ambassador’s Tour for more ideas on where to go, and how to combine birding with exploring other places of interest in this UNESCO-designated region.

Got any questions about migratory birds in southwest Scotland? We’re happy to help either through putting you in touch with our Biodiversity and Nature Recovery Officers, or by signposting partner organisations that may be able to help. Contact us via


Get involved - become a Proud Supporter