14. December 2009

49 North Uist, Western Isles

History:  White-fronted Geese certainly occurred on North Uist in small flocks of 15-30 birds and were described as “beginning to be common in the south and west by 1917 (Berry 1939), but he added that they were seldom seen inland.  By the time of A-W (1963), there were considered to be 50-150 “in favoured years”, but that probably no more than 20 occurred regularly.  It seems likely that, similar to other areas on the Outer Hebrides generally and the Uists and Benbecula generally, this site was subject to visitations of large numbers of staging birds in spring and autumn that greatly inflated numbers seen by observers who were then not necessarily aware of this migration habit.  It therefore seems likely that this flock changed relatively little in status (although we cannot know this for certain) numbering up to 50 individuals in different sites on North Uist until at least the 1960s. Until very recently, there seemed no reason to suppose the status of this flock had changed from the time of Ruttledge and Ogilvie (1979), who considered the island deserted as a regular haunt.
Status: Abandoned, formerly of regional importance (part of R&O 45).  Apart from the birds in 1991/92, none appeared to remain on the island for extended periods. Although there were c.100 on Kirkibost Island in January 1981 (W.A.J. Cunningham), the odd groups encountered in recent years may well relate to migrating birds, or wandering individuals. In the late 1990s better coverage did find apparently regular small numbers, but not subsequently.  It is difficult judge what happened with this flock, but all indications are that the resort is no longer regularly used.
Site safeguard: Part of the area used by the geese lies within the North Uist Machair and Islands SPA and Ramsar site.
Habitat: No information.
Threats: No information.