The recent reporting for 2015/16 from the Goose & Swan Monitoring Programme revealed news of three significant population milestones having being reached. Thanks again to the marvellous efforts of the network of volunteer counters and local organisers of the Icelandic-breeding Goose Census, who annually count the number of Greenland/Iceland Pink-footed Goose and Iceland Greylag Goose across the flyway, a new record high census total of Pink-footed Geese was reached – a staggering total of 536,871 Pinkfeet counted in mid-October 2015. This is the highest count on record and a 36% increase on the estimate in 2014. This large 12 month increase suggests other recent census totals have underestimated the true total number, probably as a result of some birds remaining in the inaccessible highlands of Iceland. As expected with such a large population total, some notable counts were reported from some sites, with counters at Montrose Basin and West Water Reservoir being treated to what must have been a spectacular sight with flocks of well over 80,000 Pinkfeet!
Continuing the Icelandic theme, in January 2015 counters took part in the International Swan Census which, thanks to fantastic coverage and the efforts of volunteer counters and organisers, showed that the Icelandic Whooper Swan population has increased by 16% since 2010 to 34,004 birds. Count data also showed indications of a shift in the population’s distribution, with the number wintering in England having increased five-fold. At the Ouse Washes, the number of Whooper Swans recorded was 7,171 birds in 2015, the highest recorded at that time.
The third population milestone is that of the Svalbard Barnacle Goose. During 2015/16, three coordinated counts of the Solway Estuary were greater than 40,000 birds, including a peak count of 42,017 on 27th April, when over 70% of the population was gathered on Rockcliffe Marsh in Cumbria prior to migration. The passing of this 40,000 threshold is a remarkable example of population recovery considering that there were fewer than 400 birds just 70 years ago.
For all the latest and to read more, download GooseNews from the GSMP Reports and newsletter archive and see further details on the results of surveys carried out in 2015/16 for all goose and swan populations, which can be found in the newly updated GSMP Species Accounts.