The Scottish Wildlife Trust is urging the public not to set off fireworks near important areas for wildlife after thousands of pink-footed geese were displaced from Montrose Basin in Angus by noise from fireworks let off on the reserve.
Geese numbers were estimated at more than 90,000 early last week, but a coordinated count as part of the UK-wide Icelandic Breeding Goose Census held on Sunday, October 23 recorded just 42,840.
The Trust has received several reports of fireworks being let off at Tayock within the reserve and discarded fireworks have been found on the edge of the basin.
Anna Chesier, Montrose Basin ranger, said: “Once the fireworks started, geese numbers went down drastically and much faster than usual. We would normally expect their numbers to remain higher for at least a few days, but because the noise started on nights with strong moonlight the geese would have been encouraged to move on by the disturbance.
“Letting off fireworks on the reserve can cause serious disturbance to any roosting birds and is also a risk to other people who are visiting the area.”
Tens of thousands of the pink-footed geese arrive at the reserve every autumn after a 1,200km migration, with many moving further south to estuaries on the east coast of England after stopping for a few days’ rest.
Despite the disappointing census results the pink-footed geese and other waders have proven to be a big draw for visitors. All three of the Trust’s People’s Postcode Lottery Goose Breakfast and Pink Sunset events, which give members of the public the perfect opportunity to see geese take off from Montrose Basin en masse, were fully booked this year.
Anna added: “The geese use Montrose Basin a bit like a motorway service station. It’s the first suitable roosting site they arrive at on their migration south from Iceland and Greenland.
“Even though it is really disappointing that numbers have dropped so quickly due to the fireworks, 40,000 pink-footed geese is still an awe-inspiring sight. It’s well worth a visit in the next couple of weeks to watch them before their numbers dip further.”
Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is open daily from 10.30am to 5pm until the end of October, and from Friday to Monday 10.30am - 4pm in November and December. Viewing hides are open daily and the best chance to see the remaining geese is at dawn and dusk.