Latest sawbill bird count

We normally undertake a count of the fish eating birds in December but with the high water all winter it was late February before reasonable water levels and staff availability made the count possible. Roger and myself canoed the stretch from Craigellachie to the sea, which was an exciting trip to say the least! The remainder of the river, from Aviemore downstream, was counted through a combination of driving and walking.

The Feb 2016 goosander count is shown in the graph below. In total 153 goosander were counted, down from the 311 in Oct 2015. Most of the goosanders were located in the lower river (as is normally the case).

Goosander counts February 2016.The bottom axis depicts 10km stretches in an upstream direction.

Goosander counts February 2016. The bottom axis depicts 10km stretches in an upstream direction.

Numbers of other piscivorous were low with 9 cormorants and 1 merganser counted. Although the goosander count was well down from the October high; which is the time of year when the scandinavian migrants arrive, it was still high in comparison to previous winner counts, albeit they were generally completed in December.

We normally do an early spring count in March, which means soon. This will be close to the February count but that will provide an indication of the variability between counts.

Whilst counting the fish eating birds we also note any goldeneye, that lovely freshwater duck which are so prevalent on the Spey.

The distribution of goldeneye is quite differnet to the goosander with the highest counts normally in the middle/upper river.

The distribution of goldeneye is quite different to the goosander with the highest counts normally in the middle/upper river. Thier numbers in the locale have increased in recent decades.


There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Jon Gibb at 10:50 pm

    I see you count goldeneye as well. We are seeing increasing amounts as well. Interested in your view on their potential impact. I know not fish eating but fish eggs?

    • Brian Shaw Author at 9:47 am

      Hi Jon, I have not been too concerned about their impacts on salmon. Googling their diet provides examples of birds with large numbers of salmon eggs in their stomach but they were sockeye eggs in sandy substrate. If there were eggs close to the surface of the sediment I have no doubt a Goldeneye would take them; what creature wouldn’t, but these are eggs which are likely to be lost anyway. Our Goldeneye counts are highest in the spring, rather than at spawning time, and I have never seen them targeting what were known to be spawning areas. I have also no doubt they would take recently emerged fry, which may be easy to catch for a short while, but they are not really specialist fish feeders.
      I have however often watched them feeding and they do make repeated diving trips over the same area of riverbed, with short upstream flights to regain position in what can be fast flowing water. They diet is supposed to consist of invertebrates, molluscs etc, and I have pondered if there is an impact on freshwater pearl mussels through consumption of juveniles?

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