Today was the routine monthly WeBS ( Wetland Bird Survey ) count. Such is administered by the British Trust for Ornithology via its volunteer "workforce" on behalf of the funding partnership comprising the RSPB, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. The objective is to monitor non-breeding waterbirds in the UK. The data is then used to assess the size of waterbird populations , establish trends and use the results to prioritise the importance of sites used and in their protection should they fall under threat. It commenced in 1947, so there is a long run of data that can usefully be used to establish the "health" of given species, and if in decline, to better try and understand the factors involved.
Sounds all very formal but, in reality, it's great fun. Certainly weather can play a major part as , for example, a lot of birds had left Islay last year at this point as we , and many other places too, were in the throes of a freeze up!! This year, by contrast, is relatively mild ( well, relative to last winter that is! ). I count various sites with the most important one being being the majority part of Loch Indaal, the remainder being completed by .other volunteers. Additionally Loch Gruinart is (thankfully) counted by RSPB staff given the reserve covers most of the key area. We are very lucky in that the suite of species encountered can be varied given we have "pure maritime" sites, e.g Outer Loch Indaal, sea lochs with large sheltered feeding areas and a good number of freshwater lochs. A bonus for those with a year list!
So that was my day! Thankfully most , not all, of the geese we play host to on Islay are out grazing fields often far away from wetland areas. Due to a government subsidy scheme aimed at compensating farmers for the pressure arising from this aspect, Scottish Natural Heritage organize regular counts of the geese and establish their distribution on a field by field basis over the island, so the figures arise from this source.