The Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy is a conservation partnership project, which aims to conserve the internationally important brent goose and wading bird populations within and around the Special Protection Areas and Ramsar wetlands of the Solent coast.

The first Strategy was published in 2002 and focused on brent geese in the eastern Solent harbours; in 2010 a new Solent-wide Strategy was published,  covering both wading birds and brent geese. The latest strategy, the Solent Waders & Brent Goose Strategy 2020, has now been published. The 2020 Strategy focuses on understanding bird movements from the SPA areas to inland sites, and between inland sites. Three years of movement surveys have been carried out, the results have been analysed and used to update the current use mapping. The mapping is available to view on the strategy, maps and data page.

The 2020 Strategy analyses all the existing data from the 2010 Strategy and the latest survey data up to 2019. A different site classification system has been used to previous years; the method is fully explained in the Strategy document.  Mitigation guidance has also been produced by the Solent Waders and Brent Geese Steering Group, and accompanies the Strategy; the guidance is available to download here .

The steering group members include Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Natural England, RSPB, Hampshire County Council and Coastal Partners. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust lead on the co-ordination of survey work and analysis of data.

The survey programme and data updates have been funded by Hampshire Ornithological Society, the Environment Agency, the National Grid, Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre, Natural England, the Solent Forum, the Local Planning Authorities for the New Forest, Southampton, Eastleigh, Gosport, Fareham, Portsmouth, Havant, and Chichester, Chichester Harbour Conservancy and the New Forest National Park Authority.

The Solent Waders and Brent Geese Strategy has helped inform conservation efforts in other countries where Brent geese are also using inland sites. In Dublin bay, the pale-bellied population are also known to use golf courses, farmland and amenity areas, creating similar conservation challenges to those we face in the Solent.

Lorraine Benson, Researcher at University College, Dublin studied the geese as part of her masters thesis and contacted us for information on how we analysed site importance, to help inform her studies. Her work is now being used to inform conservation work by Birdlife Ireland. Lorraine says :

“This method of Brent goose survey and the analysis of site use has now led to a coordinated monitoring of the geese by Dublin City Council and Birdwatch Ireland, Ireland’s leading nature conservation organisation”

Scientific research into pale-bellied geese movements, migration and conservation is being carried out by the Irish Brent Goose Research Group. Find out more on their facebook page.

Case Study: Knowledge Sharing – Brent Geese in Ireland

In 2009, Portsmouth College developed an area of their playing fields. The grassland area was used by Brent geese and therefore mitigating for the loss of feeding areas was made a condition of their planning permission. The mitigation involved creating a Brent goose “refuge” an area of fenced-off grassland close to the area being lost. The refuge area was a success and post-mitigation monitoring has shown that geese continue to use the site.

From the outputs of modelling exercise in the 2010 Strategy, we know that Brent geese like to feed on lush grassland habitats, prefer sites if they are close to similar sites they can also use, require clear sight and flight lines and sites that are close to the intertidal areas, and although they can habituate to some types of disturbance, they will be flushed from sites when the disturbance is direct. Our movement studies this year, will give us a greater understanding of how geese move between sites, which sites in the Solent are key usage sites, and identify where mitigation areas could be created.

Case Study: Brent Geese Refuge Sites