Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Early Sightings....

Could these be the vanguard of an early arrival this winter? Normally we expect the first arrivals at Strangford Lough, Co. Down to be during the last week in August.....
First report was from Mike Peacock and Peter Roberts, of a flock of 11 "small geese" flying in off the sea from the NW towards the Rhinns of Islay, Frenchman' Rocks, then heading south. Both are contributors to our project, thought they were brent geese, and would know their birds.
As a result of that sighting, I checked out the north end of Strangford Lough on 11 August, but found no geese.
Then, yesterday, I got a report of "three large groups of very noisy brent geese flying over Aughnanure Castle, Co. Galway in the past few days" from Jenny Young, who regularly reports her first sightings from there. Such birds may well be en route to Co. Kerry, where records of birds arriving as early as Strangford Lough are not unusual.
So, keep watching out!! Reports to me - grahammcelwaine@btinternet.com - of first sightings of the winter are very welcome, and I am happy to place the earliest ones on the blog!!..........

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Week 3 May - numbers probably at peak and the countdown to departure has started

It's been a very busy few weeks - hence the lack of posted messages. Lots of rings were read, over 130 birds were colour-ringed at catches at four locations, two each in Faxafloi and Breidafjordur. The detail of these will appear in due course. Having just returned exhausted from the field myself for now here is a just broadcast piece. We managed to make the national TV news and front page of the national newspaper last week! The news piece (which includes archive footage from Canada) focuses mostly on a catch in Alftanes, SW Iceland and interviews with some of us involved with the project:

http://www.ruv.is/frett/margaesir-veiddar-i-net-og-merktar

Thursday, 11 May 2017

It's all go..geese in their last 2-3 weeks of staging

It's been a very busy period for us all in Iceland. Even with a large team there are so many widely dispersed sites, many thousands of birds and tasks that need carried out that it is full on.
So currently the team are broadly split into 3; a catching and marking team engaged primarily with cannon-netting and taking various samples and measurements. To date we have captured around 70 geese in 5 catches at Alftanes near Reykjavik. The arrival of 30 beautifully crafted decoys made and couriered by Dr Chris Nicolai has helped a little - they look great, birds and landing and staying with them in catch and certainly when we have mobile flocks the speed at which one can set and there is potential to catch seems to be fast. They are realistic enough for us to think they are real Brent (before we remember we placed them there), for the passing public to think it is remarkable that we can just walked up to these geese and pet them (!!) and most importantly that real Brent think they're the real deal!
There are then a second team, aptly known as the 'pooh crew'. No, they don't have part-time jobs cleaning sewers in Reykjavik. These are a small team of students doing some fantastic work on behaviour of colour-marked Brent, rates of body mass gain (assessed through visual observation of their abdominal profiles), and looking at diets of these birds using stable N and C isotopes. Some other stuff too we will talk about later. The latter question is where the pooh comes in. Quite an art watching an individual drop a little bomb, remotely guiding folk to collect that poo (a poo drone) and bagging that little parcel of loveliness in a labelled bag. Laborious no doubt but very valuable.
Last but not least are Team Jameson. They are driving round between flocks, bars and nightclubs mostly reading rings, looking for some GPS tagged birds and aiming for 'gold' aka birds which we may not otherwise see etc.