The numbers and behaviour of geese in the Lothians and Berwickshire

William Brotherston


An account of the numbers and distribution of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese in south-east Scotland, based primarily on simultaneous counts at all the roosts in the area once or twice each autumn from 1955 to 1963, supplemented b less complete counts in 1950-54 and by the gathering of memory records from local residents extending back over 30 years. In recent years there have been peaks of about 12,000 Pinkfeet and 1,000 to 1,300 Greylags in the area in October or November. Pinkfeet were most numerous in 1961 (14,000) and scarcest in 1963 (4,750). Local abundance is largely determined by the amount of food available, principally on stubble fields in autumn and grass in winter. Numbers before the 1939-45 War were at a lower level, the peak probably no more than 5,000. A shift from coastal to inland roosts during the War was due partly to disturbance but, more importantly, to improved mechanical agriculture in the upland area, with a substantial increase in crops of barley and oats and the rotation of grass as a crop. Pinkfeet arrive from the middle of September, the main arrivals being usually in early October. A peak in numbers soon afterwards is usually followed after only a few weeks by radical changes in distribution with some emigration, the mid-winter population being no more than 5,000. Numbers increase again from the end of February, declining in April, with a final spring departure in the early days of May. The feeding, roosting and flighting behaviour of both Pinkfeet and Greylags are described. Only one roosting station (Gladhouse) is used by large numbers of both Pinkfeet and Greylags, most of the latter preferring reservoirs not used by Pinkfeet. Greylags prefer grass to stubble and usually feed nearer their roosts than do Pinkfeet. Though still greatly outnumbered by Pinkfeet, Greylags have been more numerous in the last decade than in the period 1935-50. The occurrence of small numbers of other species of geese is discussed.

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