A few weeks back I was delighted to receive news that an Egyptian Goose I had submitted to the NESRC back in 2010 was accepted under Category C as a first for the region and by the SBRC as a second for Scotland. Egyptian Goose records don’t normally scream seriousness in your face, but I’m glad to say this individual was an exception to that rule. A very interesting bird, as you’ll see below.
Egyptian Goose at Meikle Loch – Circumstances and Description:
On the morning of 27th March 2010 I decided to spend a few hours around the Ythan area, hoping to catch up with a Bewick’s Swan which had been found in fields in the Waulkmill area the day beforehand, and perhaps a few early migrants. After successfully tracing down the Bewick’s Swan and popping into Collieston, we headed down towards the estuary via Meikle Loch. As we drove down the track, I noticed a flock of Shelduck and something larger take off towards the back of the loch. Getting the binoculars up revealed a pale, stocky medium sized goose with cinnamon undertail coverts and gleaming white wing panels contrasting with jet black primaries. It dawned on me that, much to my surprise I was watching an Egyptian Goose.
I can remember exclaiming something along the lines of ‘What on earth is that doing here?’ as it powered into the distance. The Shelduck flock touched down at the very edge of the loch, but the Egyptian Goose continued into the fields behind. It hit us that this was may be all we were going to see of the bird in question, but to our relief it landed in the field to the left of the cottage, some 300ft away from where we were stationed. At this point were able to note the buff-grey head, chestnut eye patches and pink bill before it walked out of view behind a patch of conifers. A few tense minutes were spent hoping that it would reappear into view, and eventually it flew back onto the loch, detached from the other wildfowl and seeming entirely unable to settle. Within a couple of minutes it had flown high to the southeast; gone after no more 10 minutes of us arriving. It later became apparent that the bird had been seen on the Ythan by Waterside Bridge with Shelduck at 12:30pm, roughly an hour and a half after we had last seen it at Meikle. It would not be seen again in the region thereafter.
Alarm bells rang in my head that this may not be an escapee. Had this bird acted tame and settled I wouldn’t have even dwelt on this possibility. In reality I had been faced with a very mobile and flighty Egyptian Goose which had stuck around at Meikle Loch for no more than 10 minutes before moving south. Could this have been a genuinely migrating bird that had strayed from a self-sustaining population? I could only wonder. I soon became alerted that a mobile Egyptian Goose had been in Shetland the previous month. It was last seen there on 25th March at Exnaboe on the southern tip of the mainland, just two days before the individual at Meikle Loch was found...
An account posted the day after it was found can be seen here.
Status Of Egyptian Goose In Scotland – The Record In Context:
Of the occasional reports of this species in Scotland, most likely refer to escapees from wildfowl collections or those from the self-sustaining groups such as those in Norfolk, Denmark and the Netherlands. There have been several records accepted under Category E of roaming individuals in Scotland, including from Kinross, the Black Isle and West Lothian in the late 1970s and more recently in NE Scotland at New Deer in 2008, but it is unlikely that the published records so far accurately represent the frequency of this bird in Scotland (Valerie M Thom 1986, T&AD Poyser). Historically, a substantial Scottish free-flying population was kept at the Gosford Estate in East Lothian throughout the 19th century, with some groups from this population being noted to have wintered in Northumberland, where they were known as “spanish geese” by local wildfowlers, but failed to subsequently become established into the 20th century (J.T.R Sharrock 1976, T&AD Poyser).
The Shetland bird represented the first to be accepted onto Category C of the Scottish List due to its location and also the time of year. Late winter and early spring have been acknowledged as a period when this species are potentially on the move in England (Riddington 2011, SOC) and thus the Shetland bird was deemed as having the necessary credentials for a ‘wild’ bird from a self-sustaining population. Due to the ties in dates with this bird, the Meikle Loch individual has been accepted on similar grounds as a second for record Scotland and a first for NE Scotland.
Personally, I believe the evidence given points to this bird being the same individual as the Shetland one, given its outstandingly mobile nature and ties in dates with said bird…. Not that it matters too much; undoubtedly one of the highlights of the year.
British Trust for Ornithology, Sharrock, J.T.R. (1976) – The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland, P.96-97
Thom, M. Valerie (1986), T&AD Poyser – Birds in Scotland
R. Riddington, Scottish Ornithological Club (2011) – Egyptian Goose in Shetland
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