14. December 2009

59 Loch Assapol, Strathclyde Region

History: Neither Berry (1939), A-W (1963) nor R&O (1979) reported White-fronted Geese from Mull at all, so there is no extended history of this flock beyond the time of Richard Coomber, who recorded geese from the Ross of Mull since 1975.
Status: Regional importance (not known to R&O).  This has probably ceased to be a regular resort since the early 2000s.  This flock was always considered a separate group from those that resorted to Loch Fidden, but ever since the first counts from this resort, numbers have fluctuated widely with no obvious trend, suggesting that there may well have been interchange between the two groups and/or that other feeding sites used by this flock remain to be discovered, not least on Iona where this flock has been noted to resort.  Although there have been marked birds seen on Mull, they have not been helpful in enlightening exchange between the feeding areas.  Numbers at this resort have only twice exceeded 50 in the time since 1975 when birds have been counted at this resort.

Maximum winter counts:

Breeding success: No figure provided because of the small flock size and few data.
Feeding sites and habitat: Geese fed mostly at Saorphin Farm Bunessan (NM401203) above Loch Assapol on reseeded, improved and rough pasture.  There is much rough pasture and seemingly good feeding habitat along the margin of the loch, but the birds remain on the improved pasture more than other land types.  In the mid-1970s, the geese used to be seen in the wet moorland east of Bunessan, but since around 1977/78, they have apparently ceased to use this area. On 6th November 1982, the flock was watched flying to land on moorland at Torr Mor (NM383244) when disturbed but no other alterative feeding sites were known.
Roosting sites:  The geese roost on Loch Assapol, along the western shore, less than 200 m from their favoured feeding area on the adjacent farmland.  The geese also had a favoured loafing, batheing and preening site at the southeast end of the loch
Habitat change: None known to affect the geese.
Aircraft disturbance: The site is near a low-flying route, but is less affected than the flock at nearby Claish and Kentra Mosses.
Hunting disturbance: Not known, some shooting used to take place at the neighbouring farm of Scoor, but not thought a problem.
Agricultural disturbance: Not known, but not thought significant. 
Site safeguard: None.
SNH Natural Heritage Zones/Area: Western Seaboard.
Threats:   None known.
Linkages with other sites:  Nine collared birds have been seen amongst the Fidden flock, but there was no interchange with this group apparently.
Berry, J. (1939) The status and distribution of wild geese and wild duck in Scotland. University Press, Cambridge.