Katie, who is currently on a graduate placement here at ACT, got the opportunity to go goose counting in Kintyre. Our colleagues in partner organisation Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) took her out so she could get an understanding of land use in Kintyre, alongside some basic training in ecological surveying and collecting data. She shares her experience in the blog below.

The day

We drove the length of Kintyre and, starting from the south near Machrihanish, counted geese where we saw them. We noted the species, number of geese in the flock, and the field that they were in. The day was (mostly!) dry with good visibility.

The geese are counted from a distance. It can be easier to count from inside the vehicle to avoid disturbance.

What were we counting?

The geese we were most interested in were the Greenland white-fronted geese. On average, around 2,000-2,500 white-fronted geese winter in Kintyre, having migrated 3000 km from summer breeding grounds in Greenland. Kintyre hosts a significant proportion of the total GB population which is estimated to be around 13,000. The Greenland white fronted goose is a red list species as categorised by the State of the UK’s Birds study. Red list species are those that are globally threatened, whose population or range has declined rapidly in recent years, or which have declined historically and not recovered. The geese feed in grass fields during the day and roost on freshwater lochs at night.

In addition to the Greenland white-fronted geese we saw a few Canada and pink-footed geese, as well as plenty of greylag geese.

Greenland white-fronted goose Greylag goose
Pink-footed goose Canada goose

(Images from RSPB)

Why is it important to count geese?

The Kintyre Local Goose Management Scheme gives financial support to farmers providing management which supports the highly protected Greenland white-fronted goose.  Management includes provision of undisturbed fields as feeding grounds between November and the end of April, as well as application of extra fertiliser in spring and autumn. Management payments are calculated using the local goose numbers. Goose counts are roughly fortnightly between November and April. The goose counts also provide information for numerous other areas of work for SNH and are used by international groups for research and monitoring. You can read more about the Kintyre Local Goose Management Scheme here.

My thoughts

I loved exploring a new part of Argyll and seeing the beautiful geese. One of my favourite things about working for ACT is the amount of work we do in partnership with agencies, which led to Stan and Stuart from SNH asking me if I’d like to help with counting. I got a lot from this experience, so I’d like to thank them.

The curious "neigh"bours