Industry and Nature in Harmony

Geese make the most of the Humber’s islands

Most readers will be familiar with the importance of the Humber Estuary for wildlife. Its mudflats, saltmarsh, lagoons and reedbeds are internationally important and so are the bird populations that they support. One feature of the Humber that can sometimes be overlooked, however, is its islands and the vital role they play for birds.

For any habitat within or around the Estuary, understanding its true value relies on the collection of good quality data and information, both by professional surveyors and dedicated volunteers. Schemes with regular counts, whether they are for a wide range of species like in the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) or a specific group of species like geese, are the most valuable in contributing to our understanding of the Estuary and its amazing wildlife.

Through WeBS data, it has been apparent for a number of years that the importance of the Humber is growing again for one species that is perhaps among the most evocative of open, wetland landscapes: the pink-footed goose. For many people, this species is most familiar in skeins flying overhead during Autumn, giving their distinctive high-pitched calls. During the evening or early morning, if you are stood around the right parts of the Estuary, it is likely that these birds passing overhead will be on their way either to or from one of two places on the Humber: Whitton or Read’s Islands. 

Thanks to the kind of long-term surveying described above, it is possible to accurately chart the changes in the Estuary’s population of “pinks” and 2013 proved to be a special year. In October 2013, targeted “grey goose” surveying recorded over 10,500 birds using Whitton and Read’s Islands – the highest total for the Estuary since 1959 – 1960. Survey results like these are not only great news for those of us who care about the Estuary’s wildlife, but due reward for those dedicated people that put in the time to monitor the Estuary, and its flora and fauna. If you feel that you might like to contribute to monitoring the Estuary’s wildlife, and at the same time have the opportunity to delve further into the fascinating environment of the Humber, then please contact the HNP to find out what opportunities there are for you.

Richard Barnard, RSPB

10 March 2014

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