Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2nd September, 2008.

An absolutely glorious day throughout in stark contrast to some of the recent ones we've had.
The whole day spent counting Grey lag Geese with the support and help of Scttish Natural Heritage and RSPB staff. A couple of years ago I started, independently, attempting to gather in the total numbers of Grey lag Geese that now accumulate at various points in autumn on Islay. RSPB has always completed counts on the reserve at Gruinart but the distributional patterns have changed with time and now birds are more mobile and using several areas.
Last year saw a final toatal of 1840 birds in September, which had gradually increased over the years from a relatively low figure. A report of 4000 birds last autumn was disregarded as the counts immediately subsequent to that never registered in excess of the 1800 birds counted previously.
This year linked to the Scottish Grey lag Goose Survey 2008 being organized by the The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust aimed at establishing the population to the north and west of the Great Glen on both mainland Scotland and the islands.
Coverage was excellent, with many thanks to all the participants, although the total, thus far, is 3/400 short of last year's figure. Whether or not the birds shot earlier in the year has seen an effect on the overall population is difficult to tell as yet.

I shall carry out at least a couple more counts in September as it is my contention that, besides the large "gatherings" of local birds, we also see an influx of birds from elsewhere during the month, several weeks before the main influx of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese. Soon after the main body of Grey lags appears to move on, although slightly more than normal remained during last winter. To where and from whence are now key questions which, hopefully, might begin to be answered next year with the intention to try and catch and place numbered collars on some birds so their movements can be traced.

Whilst no doubt there'll continue to be armchair theories on the subject the fact remains that we have at least a baseline of data against which we can now compare the numbers and distribution of birds in the future. Work earlier that I completed counting broods might also be extended next year so that we have a better idea of the precise numbers of breeding pairs and their success. Fascinating and frustrating stuff, with an anxious eye also being cast on the situation by our farmers, who see the extension of the "season" wherein we have a presence of large numbers of geese
growing annually!!

Little opportunity for general birding but a single Wheater at Ballinaby showed passage continuing. A thorough examination of areas favoured by Light-bellied Brent Geese saw none here yet in contrast to the situation in Ireland where they have been present for several days.

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