During May and June 2019, the Tay Ghillies Association (TGA) had a number of meetings to debate their approach to improving the River Tay in order to do everything possible to help halt the decline of the Atlantic Salmon. It was felt that a more proactive approach to a number of issues was called for. These issues include diffuse and point pollution, water abstraction, stocking and predation.


The TGA believes that predation from birds is a major issue. Acknowledging that Marine Scotland is running a survey on piscivorous bird stomach contents until early 2020, the TGA decided to start gathering information on the actual number of piscivorous birds in the Tay system. This information would be collected on a monthly basis from July 2019 such that when the Marine Scotland study was published in spring 2020, there would be substantive evidence of the bird numbers on the Tay. 

The Count

The monthly counts are carried out by the Tay Ghillies, and other volunteers throughout the system, and takes place on the lower and middle Tay, Loch Tay and feeder rivers/streams. The count followed the Scottish Natural Heritage counting protocol:

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) – Licences to control fish-eating birds for the purpose of preventing serious damage to fisheries: COUNTING METHODS FOR RIVERINE BIRDS.

A combination count is followed.


There have been several issues with the count and in the future better counts could be achieved.

Firstly, the count is carried out by the TGA and volunteers. They have all done a magnificent job! However, there have been gaps in the count and more volunteers would be beneficial. More information from the Earn, Ericht and the Upper river would be beneficial and the TGA will approach the River Earn Improvement Association, Blairgowrie and Rattray District Angling Association and Aberfeldy Angling Club to ask for further volunteers.

Secondly, adverse weather caused issues in the West Loch Tay area as well as deer stalking restrictions.

Thirdly, Covid-19 restrictions meant that there was no April count and May was also restricted.

Lastly, the TGA never managed to get the TDSFB fishery officers on board and that is something that must be fixed going forward.

The Results

The following diagrams show summaries of the counts.


Figure 1 Total Counts

Figure 2 – Monthly comparison

NB: The Juvenile count of 383 for July 2019 has been zeroed on this graph to make the principal predator numbers easier to read



  1. Graphs do not show any “pinch points” or areas where there are large gatherings of birds all of the time.
  2. Goosanders were active in December, January, May, July and August
  3. However, the upper river showed consistently high counts when actual counts were undertaken. More volunteers are required here to cover all months.


  1. Liaise with TDSFB to organise another year of joint counts.
  2. If 1 (above) is successful, contact other organisations for help.
  3. Liaise with TDSFB to create protocol for bird scaring.
  4. Before smolt run identify potential/known bird congregation areas and ensure these areas have adequate “scaring” potential.