14. December 2009

46 Nunton/Griminish, Benbecula, Western Isles

History and status: An enigmatic flock!  Thought abandoned in the late 1990s, it seems that this flock has again become regular after a period when the geese were difficult to find and were thought to have ceased wintering here.  Formerly of regional importance (part of R&O 45).  Between 50 and 120 had been recorded on the island prior to the early 1960s (A-W 1963), but R&O (1979) reported 25-50 and declining.  These may have been part of the North Uist flock which was thought to have ceased to occur as a regular flock, but which showed a brief recovery in the late 1980s and a flock appeared in winter 1998/99 and perists to the present day (see 49).  Although few were reported in the early 1980s, there does seem to have been a decline in numbers after the late 1980s.  There have been very few records of these birds at all during the 1990s and since 2000, but the erratic appearance of geese in this area could suggest geese feed in as yet undiscovered areas and appear only when seen on fields near to the roads and crofts.  Equally, this area is reasonably well watched by ornithologists and it seems unlikely that if there were a flock in the area, they would be seen with far greater frequency.  This is an area where detailed survey to determine whether there is indeed still a core flock using the areas and to learn about their feeding and loafing areas would be useful.
Maximum winter counts:

Breeding success: There are no consistent production data from this site.
Site safeguard: None.
Habitat:  Little information, mainly machair and low-intensity farmland.
Threats:  Heavily shot over in 1993/94, the flock probably joined the North Uist or Kilaulay flocks for most of this (and maybe preceeding) winter(s) interchange between these flocks may explain the earlier variation in year to year numbers.