14. December 2009

35 Sullom Voe, Shetland

History and status: Abandoned, a wintering resort of short duration for up to c.20 birds (no figure provided). Formerly of regional importance. A newly colonised site, Greenland White-fronted Geese were recorded near the oil terminal in most years from 1984. This site was only apparently used continuously throughout the winter from 1987/88 onwards, and although difficult to be certain, was seemingly abandoned from c.1991/92 onwards. Maximum counts have occurred in April in some later years suggesting geese wintering elsewhere used the area for staging just prior to spring departure.

Breeding success: No figure provided because of the small flock size and few data.

Feeding sites and habitat: The site used most by the geese was new land claim within Orka Voe. The site was used for the disposal of peat and soil waste excavated from various development sites associated with Sullom Vow terminal. The material was covered with top soil, landscaped and seeded with rye grass and clover, leaving two large pools, several smaller ponds and marshy areas. The geese fed primarily on the reseeded grassland of the area, which was grazed by sheep, although the marshy areas were left to grow rank (Dale 1990). Gravel removed from the mouth of Crooksetter Brook to encourage the run of sea-trout attracted geese to use the area as a source of grit, usually visited between 07.00 and 09.30 hours.

Roosting sites: Presumably the marsh, pools and pond of the immediate area.

Habitat change: The reseeded grassland has presumably changed in composition back towards more traditional sward composition, but otherwise unknown. Whether this change was linked to the ultimate disappearance of the flock is unclear.

Aircraft disturbance: None known.

Hunting disturbance: Some shotgun training used to take place, but since there is strict security control, the area is neither officially shot over, nor can be easily poached.

Agricultural disturbance: The local crofter tends his flock, but the perimeter fence and security patrols ensure minimum disturbance.

Site safeguards or disturbance refuge: Apart from maintenance work, this site was (and remains) very little disturbed because of the strict security associated with the oil terminal area. In the very rare eventuality of disturbance, the geese were seen to shift to the island of Bigga in Yell Sound, but observations suggested they usually returned within two hours.

SNH Natural Heritage Zones/Area: Shetland

Threats: Not relevant now abandoned, only vegetation change was likely to threaten the birds, since disturbance at the site was highly limited given the highly restricted human access to the site.

Linkages with other sites: None known.

References

Dale, P. (1990) Greenland Whitefronts at Sullom Voe Oil and Gas Terminal. pp.18 In: GWGS Research Report No.7. Greenland White-fronted Geese in Britain 1987/88-1989/90. GWGS, Aberystwyth.