Monday, 27 May 2013

The end of spring....

In the last few days Greylag goslings, Eiderlings (not sure what else you'd call a baby Eider?) and the family of Whooper Swans pictured below have all made an appearance on Alftanes - very much a sign that May is coming to an end and the Brent will be on their way soon.

The geese are all now looking very fat - and everyone up here seems to be in agreement that they are ready to go. This is borne out by the fact that the vast majority were just sat around, loafing this morning (hence why I'm back at base writing this). It seems likely that a change in the weather is all that required. The last few days have largely been fairly miserable with drizzle, squally showers and often strong winds making doing fieldwork a real pleasure. I'm hoping this will happen before I leave on Wednesday morning as it would be really cool to see!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The final countdown....

And so we're in it - the final week to 10 days of stockpiling and processing food, strengthening and testing muscles (not to talk of internal physiological changes which we know little about). But enough about the Brent research team, the geese themselves will be going through this.
We know that female body weight will continue to increase over the coming week, right up to departure; male index profiles (an index of body 'condition') on the other hand, plateaus off this week. Such information based on repeated scoring (visual) of 'belly profiles' of marked individuals throughout the spring staging period, an index calibrated against biometrics of birds at times of capture. It is always amusing to observe the 'fat-bottomed girls' getting progressively fatter as the month progresses. Photos of v fat geese will be posted in due course.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Not a brent goose....

Eiders are everywhere around Reykjavik! In some places they even join the mallards coming from bread....
Their breeding season is already well under way unlike the brent geese which aren't even half way through their migration. This female was sitting on a nest containing a couple of eggs on Seltjarnarnes Golf Course. Eiders are "farmed" in many places in Iceland to in order to protect nests and collect eiderdown to use in duvets and other soft things!

Stormy skies!

The weather has been all over the place in the last couple of days with a good mix of strong winds, hail, drizzle and sunshine.... All this means geese are often to be found sitting down (about their only way of hiding from the elements) which makes reading colour rings quite difficult!!

Stormy skies over the president's house

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

More from Alftanes...

Sunrise at some time around 4.30am this morning!
All these early starts mean we're going well with resighting lots of geese - I think its getting close to 3000 resightings of several hundred different brent geese. The idea behind doing this is to provide a really detailed picture of what sites individual geese are using and which other geese they are associating with when they do this
Us at work later this morning - you can just about see the geese on the far side of the field

We're also busy doing behavioural watches to learn more about what causes differences in how vigilant and aggressive different geese are. Particularly during the spring when there is more at stake brent goose battles can be pretty intense. This can include charging from one side of a flock to another to target another bird, body slams or even lunging in two-footed in a way Roy Keane would be proud of!

Off to explore Snaefellsnes tomorrow about threee hours drive north of Reykjavik - looking forward to a brief change of scenery!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Iceland 2013!

A lot has happened since the last time this was updated!

I had a very busy time out in Dublin in February and March, the highlight of which was the full team coming together at the start of March and managing to catch and ring 130 new birds in north Dublin. These birds all have either blue-blue or red-red combinations so if you see any geese with these ring combinations you can know they've been ringed in Dublin in the last couple of winters.

Also see this great blog post from the Trinity College EvoEcol blog that sums up this week quite nicely.

Now its time for spring brent chasing in Iceland. I've been up here for nearly 10 days now, joined by colleagues from the University of Exeter and the full Irish contingent are arriving in a few days time. Just like last year its been long, long days and some crazy weather but its a great place to be. Its been great to see a number of birds we ringed this year in Dublin have made the same journey too and have joined all the now familiar ringed birds out in the fields of Alftanes.

More to come soon hopefully....