Today saw the first real snow of winter with the conical summits of the Paps of Jura being covered to mid -level until part way through the day. Weather itself was mixed at best, with sleet, sunny periods, rain, relatively calm conditions then changing towards the end of the day with quite strong winds arising.! So, a mixture, which can also be said about the geese present on the island at present.
Today was also the first of the formal goose counts organized by Scottish Natural Heritage. Such are linked to the agricultural subsidy system , but also the monitoring of the various goose populations, particularly the Greenland White-fronted Goose, are additional critical elements that come out of the project. A full day of counting leaves little opportunity for "other birdwatching", but distant views of eagles were a bonus. Few winter thrushes were in evidence and, sadly, numbers of small passerines appear to be at a particularly low ebb.
Two or three large flocks of Barnacle Geese were present within our sector, the largest of which was present on Bridgend Flats. Passing this accumulation, on our way to a nearby area, we reckoned on over 4000 was present. Returning shortly afterwards our count only saw just over 3000 being still present, as groups of birds repeatedly left the area. Good views were had of a leucistic bird,which looks suspiciously like the one present last winter. Some good flocks of Whitefronts were seen and an indication of the numbers which have returned will soon be available once the International Goose count has been completed in November. Hopefully this will show that the population has not reduced as significantly as in recent years. Such reductions are suspected to be as a result of the competition arising between increasing numbers of Canada Geese in Geenland and the subspecies of White-fronted Geese also breeding there. Time will tell!
It seems to me that, should numbers of Canada Geese continue to increase in Greenland we might also see a marginal increase in their winter occurrence on Islay. Several Lesser Canada Geese appear to be present this winter and, almost as if wishing to register its presence on the first count of 2012/2013, a "blue" Snow Goose turned up yesterday too at Gruinart !! This species arriving alongside the already present Red-breasted Goose means Islay is currently playing host to a very good selection of goose species and will undoubtedly attract many birdwatchers wishing to "connect" with what is a significant assemblage of rare geese!! To these must be added Grey lag Geese, Light-bellied Brent Geese and the odd Pink-footed Goose!! Some years ago, with a similar assemblage of individuals being present, I managed to see all but one ( Lesser Canada Goose ) in a single afternoon. Exhausting and with well in excess of a hundred miles completed within Islay itself, all laced together , I suspect , with a great deal of luck!