Monday, 15 December 2014

Site Faithfulness Across the Flyway...

I've just been working on the latest overall Summary which I send out to observers of marked birds, and, despite it being relatively early in the winter, already the re-sighting pattern is following that of other winters since 2007, when the Group first ringed birds on the breeding grounds in High Arctic Canada. Detailed study by our colleagues at University of Exeter, and particularly Xav Harrison, has shown that groups of birds and families tend to use the same specific sites throughout the flyway path i.e. breeding, through migration to their wintering sites.

Hence, I thought it might be worth sharing that, already, about 10% of the birds which we ringed this summer up on Axel Heiberg Island (look it up on Google Earth!!) have been recorded from one small estuary in Ireland, at Rogerstown, just north of Dublin. The recent photographs below are courtesy of Christer Persson, of birds located at the entrance channel - the second one is looking out towards Lambay Island, which the brent from Rogerstown (proven by records of ringed birds) also use on occasions.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

And Now the Other One...

The second bird I referred to in yesterday's blog was S6WR, an adult ringed at Greyabbey, on the eastern shore of Strangford Lough on 24 October, as part of a catch of 7 birds.

At Greyabbey, inter-tidal is particularly difficult, as we are depending on the tide flooding up to a HW spit, and any catch involves a mad tidal dash by the team across to the net in waders! The birds can be very fickle from day to day, illustrated by one of my recce (as usual, VERY poor quality!!) shots on a non-attempt day, which makes one wonder how we can catch only 7 geese!! C'est la vie!! And we always catch less than we hope for there!!

So, having set the scene, unlike the bird yesterday, which went south, this bird headed east and north, to the Solway Firth, Wigton Bay in SW Scotland, to be more precise, where it was picked up by Derek Farr, and reported in to us.

So, again, a lot of effort, but it proves that even small catches at this stage of the season can yield very interesting results, as these birds are merely staging on Strangford Lough! As with the "Lone Ranger", we are indebted to canon-netter Stuart Bearhop (the Prof!) from University of Exeter, the rest of the team from there, and those who turned up to help with the catch.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Now, Where is Tonto?!!!

If you care to refer back to the blog of 25 October, you'll see that I named the only juvenile to be ringed during these early attempts on Strangford Lough "The Lone Ranger", as it was the only bird caught that day. U3WR (U right leg, 3 left leg, W hite right legring colour, R ed left legring colour), as it was ringed, was first sighted again on 28 November, but as it wasn't recorded as a juvenile, and hadn't been seen again at this heavily recorded site, it was agreed with the observer that we wouldn't blog, just in case it was a mis-read.
Now, tonight, I have received this photo:

Courtesy of Alain Livory and Roselyne Coulomb, who admit that it is not their best-ever photograph (yet you can see the red ring 3!), of what is the only WR juvenile (hence the white edging to the feathers) around just now, I can reveal that the "Lone Ranger" is currently located at the southern end of the range, at Regnéville, in Normandy, France!! - how cool is that!!
This ties in with our previous experience that, whilst these inter-tidal catches on the east side of Strangford Lough are particularly difficult, they normally yield very interesting results.
And tonight I have received a record, of another of those eight birds caught in late October, away from Ireland, which I will report on further once I get the credits established. Watch this space!!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

OK - Let's Hear a Shout for Strangford Lough!!!...

Just been making out yet another "Overall Summary" to issue to recent observers, and I notice that there have now been 3,173 re-sightings of 1,013 individuals read at Strangford Lough so far this winter!! Whilst I know there are other significant numbers of records yet to be submitted to us from there, I think the 1,000+ in particular of individuals is worth a glass-up celebration!!
The ratio of only approximately 3 rings needing to be read for each new individual (which could be seen as a measure of both effort, total numbers of birds, and throughput for sites managing good coverage of significant numbers of birds), is a feature for Strangford Lough, and again illustrates the need for a concentration of effort there during the staging season. By comparison, from last winter's results, the ratios for the "main effort" sites (>200 resightings) were (first figure is number of records):
Dublin Bay: 6057 ratio: - 9.79
Strangford Lough: 1665 ratio: - 2.17
Baldoyle Bay: 976 ratio: - 5.55
Dundrum Bay: 777 ratio: - 6.17
Normandy: 383 ratio: - 23.94
Malahide Estuary: 272 ratio: 2.67
Just in case it is of interest to the mathematicians amongst us!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Moving On...

I guess (reluctantly, as I'm one of those who benefit from the birds being on my doorstep at Strangford Lough) that the change from here to there has now happened.
First evidence is from a text, yesterday, from Kerry Mackie that he, Alex Portig, Hugh Thurgate and Seamus Magouran, have completed their last regular specific brent count for the season at the North end of the Lough, and only found 3,000 geese, the normal over-wintering complement. Well done, those guys, for their efforts in these regular autumn counts!
I have also been getting swamped (but PLEASE keep them coming!!) particularly with records from, County Dublin, which is a major over-wintering site, and where many of the birds have been ringed. Here, the birds have historically first been regularly recorded coming out on land at the Baldoyle Bay site of the public park opposite the Texaco station at Portmarnock, and this seems to have happened again this winter.
Swedish observer, Christer Persson, who spends most of the winter months in Dublin, and is a VERY significant contributor to the database, is back "on the case", has let me know birds are already coming out on to the parks there, and has sent me the photograph below of the geese already coming out on grass, in this case at Ardscoile Ris.

This was also the experience of Pat Watson and myself, on a run down the East coast from Carlingford Lough on 02 December, when we found [600] at Lugangreen, Dundalk Bay, Co. Louth, alternating between the Bay and winter cereal fields to the rear of the Iveco repair centre.
Christer Persson and Pat Watson have also been recording high numbers of our recently ringed RB Canadian birds at Rogerstown Estuary, a feature which mirrors the last catch in Canada in the same area in 2007.This helps confirm previous research, that groups of birds tend to use the same cross-flyway (wintering, staging and breeding) sites.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Go Seek and Find....

As I think I have indicated before, the main passage of brent geese through Strangford Lough has now well passed its peak. It's therefore of considerable interest to us to find out where the big families we ringed out in Canada this summer have passed on to.
In reports I've checked coming in to date (and sorry to those of you waiting for feedback, because I always seem to be running behind!), two big families have been reported. First, on 25 November, was from Alyn Walsh from Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, whom you may remember was part of the catch team out in Canada - photo of him standing with an adult from the catch of the birds he was now reporting on, below:

This was of a ringed family of 2 adults and 4 juveniles, which had earlier been recorded passing through Strangford Lough.
Then, tonight, I have a second report, from Mick Cowming, of a big all-ringed family at Tramore Back Strand, Co. Waterford. Again this family had been recorded passing through Strangford Lough. Given the melee of young birds which can happen at the latter site, it was recorded there as 2 adults and 4 juveniles, but Mick has now shown the family also includes a fifth juvenile. The missing bird happens to be the last bird we ringed in Canada, so I'm actually able to provide a photo from when it was being ringed, rings complete with Sellotape:

Let's explain the Sellotape. The plastic (Darvic) rings open out, so that we can get them over the legs (you can see the overlap in this photo, particularly on the blue ring). To prevent the rings opening up and migrating down over the foot, we have to weld the two sides of the ring together. For this we use welding glue, and to ensure that this gets time to act, the Sellotape restrains the ring for sufficient time to enable to bond to be made.
SO - now it's up to you!! How many of our big RB Canadian families we spent so much time and effort (and expense!!) catching, can you find???
By the way, 26RB wants it to be stated that she is a big girl now!!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Catch Time Again!!!

Today found a small team of us up at Cross Island, at the north end of Strangford Lough, attempting to catch more geese. Two of the smaller half-nets were set, and, under canon-netter Kerry Mackie from WWT, sixteen birds managed to wander into the catch zone of one of them, and bang!! they were soon literally in the bag!!


The reason for bagging the birds is that it keeps them calmer whilst waiting to be processed, and following the latter the birds are placed in a holding tent prior to release. Birds are all released at the one time, to help to keep families together. In this case, half of the birds were juveniles which had been produced during this summer's breeding season.

Some shots from today above. Now the search is on to try and sort these birds into families, before they move on to other sites. All birds were ringed with a lime-green ring on the right leg, and a yellow ring on the left leg. This is an old series, and today we were using combinations which, for one reason or another were gaps. So, if you come across a juvenile with a lime / yellow combination, it will be from this catch.