The counting team consisted of the PDG helicopter pilot and the SNH Wildlife Ops coordinator in front with a very sophisticated GPS SatNav to provide an accurate track of the flight route and to pinpoint the locations of each group of deer. In the rear of the helicopter were three skilled observers one operating a digital camera and one recording details of all the sightings. This last job is certainly not for those susceptible to motion sickness. Everyone was issued with a sickbag. Robin and Mark from the Trust assisted as observers, with Robin ensuring that eagle nests were avoided and no disturbance caused to the birds themselves.
While the results are still to be fully analysed, we were able to confirm a generally healthy population of about 4.5 deer per square kilometer. Although winter is not fully over, the condition of the calves was very encouraging.
The Trust cannot afford to conduct its own helicopter counts, despite the value of information it provides, so we are grateful for SNH Wildlife Operations who fund it as part of our land management agreement with SNH.