Geese make record time from Russia

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White-fronted geese are making record early arrivals at their main British wintering site, conservationists say.

But officials at the site, the national headquarters of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, on the Severn Estuary in Gloucestershire, are playing down the idea that the visitors are an indicator of a harsh winter ahead. The birds' early arrival is traditionally - but wrongly - seen as a harbinger of severe weather conditions.

A spokeswoman said: "The birds have just had the advantage of strong winds, which have assisted their 2,500-mile migration from the breeding grounds of Northern Russia." The first birds arrived on 22 September; they would not usually be expected until the second week in October, she said.

It was 23 years ago that there was any earlier recorded arrival.