Yesterday morning I got out of bed at 5.30am, put on all my thermals, donned my head torch, scraped the ice off my car and set off to the reserve to meet up with Vicky (our warden) before the sun came up. We met up at 6.20am, and made our way under the starry skies to a view point on the southern shore of the loch.
Our task? To count all the pink footed geese on Loch Leven.
But Loch Leven, as you well know, is pretty big so we teamed up with our colleagues from SNH to cover the whole area. Yesterday morning Craig & Steve were out from SNH, along with Claire (an RSPB colleague who kindly sacrificed her sleep to help out!) and us, all spread around the shore, waiting for sunrise.
As the skies begin to brighten, we start to make out goosey shapes on the water, floating in rafts where they've roosted overnight, along with the whooper swans. You can hear them calling to each other on the water then suddenly, without warning, one decides that it’s time to go. The rest follow suit and they peel off the water in their thousands, the sound of their wings and their calls carrying in the cool morning air.
Then the counting starts! Depending on the size of the flock we count 10 birds at a time, or even 50, keeping in your mind what a block of that number looks like and using clickers to keep track of the numbers as the birds fly off to find their breakfast. We each count birds from the roost that we can see, adding all of our results together after we’ve warmed up with a cuppa.
And our grand total for yesterday? 10,217!
Thanks to visitor Dennis Penny for this pic!
So why bother? Well today we were taking part in the Icelandic-breeding goose census (IGC); an international, coordinated count. So as we were sitting looking over Loch Leven, similar counts were taking place at the same time throughout the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands. The idea is to get a view on the numbers of pink footed geese, both overall and at each specific wintering site. The IGC has been running in the UK since 1960, if you want to know more about it have a peek here: http://monitoring.wwt.org.uk/surveys/igc.php
Don’t forget if you want to experience the excitement of a goose roost for yourself you can join Vicky & I for one of our Dawn or Dusk goose roost events: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/l/lochleven/events.aspx
We were also joined this morning by Louise and Leianna, RSPB Scotland’s media officers, who were filming the geese and did a couple of interviews with us, so we’ll share their work with you soon!
Whooper swans on the flood (there were over 300 on there yesterday morning), again thanks to Dennis Penny for the photo.
In other, non-goosey news, we’ve seen our first bramblings of the autumn at the feeders and redwings in the woodland. Some summer stragglers still seem to be hanging on though, with 3 swallows spotted along at Findatie yesterday afternoon!
There are tonnes of teal, wigeon, pochard and goldeneye on the loch along with a few pintail, some shoveler, a couple of shelduck, great crested and little grebes, 12 red breasted merganser, a juvenile long tailed duck and a gannet!