Sawbill count March 2014

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.

Goosander counts in 10km section from the river mouth

Thsi graph shows the goosander counts in 10km section from the river mouth. Whilst they are often present throughout the river the section betwen Craigellachie Bridge and downstream of Rothes supported the highest number this time. One beat in that area has reported high numbers since last summer. The count this March was 71, exactly the average of the spring counts over the last four years.

There were lowere numbers of cormarants counted. The avrage count for th last four spring counts is 10.25, this year is was slightly above the average.

As usual there were significantly lower numbers of cormorants on the river than goosanders. The average count over the last four spring counts is 10.25, this years count was slightly above the average.

As well as fish eating birds we also count goldeneye. This species only arrived on the Spey in recent decades but it seems to do well. They are always more numerous around Grantown.

As well as fish eating birds we also count goldeneye ducks. This species only arrived on the Spey in recent decades but it seems to do well here. They are always more numerous around or upstream of Grantown. The goldeneye counts might be of use to someone at some stage. Again the count this spring was exactly the average of the last four years.

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.

 

 

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Euan Reid at 10:17 pm

    Would it be possible to schedule one of the sawbill counts for late october or early November as in my opinion all the excellent juvenile fish counts taken during the summer are undone by sawbills during this period. At that time of the year it is a regular occurrence to see groups of goosanders numbering 50 on one pool and over 100 anytime over a 2 mile beat.

    • Brian Shaw Author at 11:30 pm

      It would certainly be worth doing Euan. The bird population appears to be at its highest then. I shall discuss with Roger. Cheers Brian

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