Three times per year we count the sawbill ducks and cormarants along the mainstem of the Spey from Boat of Garten downstream. These counts require considerable resources but provide essential information on population trends. The March counts were completed last week and whilst they represent the minimum number of birds on the river they have been gathered in a consistent manner for a number of years. Some birds will be missed during the counts e.g. those in flight or on the tributaries at the time. The actual population on the catchment could be a great deal higher than our counts. For example I regularly see a female goosander on a distillery cooling pond within a mile of our office so there may be significant numbers in stillwaters within the catchment.
A few mergansers were counted, although as usual they were not numerous. It is difficult to quantify the impact on the fish population from the presence of these birds on the river but the Spey does have one of the best data sets regarding the population present. We apply for a control licence each year and this robust set of data no doubt helps with the application process.