14. December 2009

62 Lowlandman’s Bay, Jura,Strathclyde Region

History: Berry (1939) mentions White-fronted Geese on Jura and A-W (1963) recorded the species as occurring annually, numbering 20-30 individuals.  R&O (1979) considered this group of up to as an “offshoot from the main haunt of Islay close by” but even then described the count coverage as sporadic.  Despite the close proximity to Islay, it has remained enormously difficult to obtain annual counts of this mysterious little flock, about which we know historically next to nothing.  Recent counts have also been sporadic, and in some cases, is not always clear when a count from “Jura” is returned whether these numbers refer to this or the following group.  As a result, the status of this flock is poorly known.  Over the years, however, it seems more and more likely that this flock is not part of the Islay winter population, since this flock is more or less constantly present whenever their known feeding areas are visited.  There seems little suggestion that individuals are commuting between the two islands, so we feel justified in considering this an discrete independent group, similar to other small island flocks and probably of long standing.
Status: Regional importance (R&O 53a).  It certainly seem like there have been 20-40 Greenland White-fronted Geese here since the 1960s which actually may have increased in the later 1990s to reach 80-90 in very recent times.  However, this flock needs some regular coverage to better understand the development in numbers in the future.

Maximum winter counts:

Breeding success: Assessment of breeding success has not been regular enough on Jura to provide a run of data from the island.
Feeding sites and habitat: The main feeding site used by the geese has been the rough Juncus pasture around Ardmenish House and the saltmarsh at the head of Lowlandman’s Bay (NR5673 and NR5773). Uprooted Eriophorum angustifolium stalks indicated bog feeding in a small wet flush near to the roost site (see below, NR564769).
Roosting sites:  In 1981/2, this flock of geese roosted on the south end of Loch nam Breach (NR563762).  At that time, there was evidently a regular midday roost flight north over Ardmenish Fram, with birds returning later in the afternoon, noted again in April 1983.  Although these geese were noted flying in the direction of the loch, there was no evidence of feeding around the loch edge.  Fields may be also be used at Knockdrome (NR5571), but all current records come from the Bay merse.  There are also unconfirmed reports of White-fronted Geese using the Small Isles in Craighouse Bay which may refer to this flock.  Large numbers of goose droppings on Eilean Mhor (NR6675) and Corr Eilean (NR6775) just across the Sound of Jura from this little flock are almost certainly to originate from the roosting Danna flock (see site 64), but may suggest some connectivity with that wintering group.
Habitat change: None known to affect the geese.
Aircraft disturbance: Not known
Hunting disturbance: Not known, but not thought a problem.
Agricultural disturbance: Not known, but not thought significant. 
Site safeguard: None.
SNH Natural Heritage Zones/Area: Argyll West and Islands.
Threats: Not known.
Linkages with other sites: The have been no reported of marked birds from this part of the island.