Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A goose chase with a continental twist

Following on from the 5 Nov post, further news on collared goose 7VBY.  As it and its mate 9ABY have settled for the winter at Regneville, a trip was arranged to try and download the data from this GPS collared bird. I headed across on the cross channel ferry and met up with Bruno Chevalier, Alain Livory & Rosalyne Coulomb, three key contributors to our goose resighting family from this beautiful La Manche department in Normandy.

A few minor fieldwork issues to contend with: firstly the collars have moved into a battery saving ‘winter mode’ so only try and talk to the receiver every 12 hours. This of course means one of these times is after dark, and, as it happens, one early in the morning. Lovely clear skies meant for some sub-zero temperatures as we stood out on the saltmarsh in the dark listening to the roosting geese cackling gently out on the estuary. Lovely stars but no download acquired alas, although the problem with looking at geese in the dark is not knowing which rings are present!

So a repeat attempt was made the following morning while the birds were out preening on the sandbanks. Unfortunately once more no download was successful, although one hour later we did get excellent views of the flock, including 7VBY & 9ABY as they came out to graze on the saltmarsh. It’s an interesting wintering population as the flock is a mix of pale-bellied (hrota) and dark-bellied (bernicla) races, and there are now around 20 ringed birds from the hrota flyway wintering here in amongst the >1000 individuals. These include birds ringed in late Spring in Dublin, and also Icelandic ringed birds (as with 7VBY & 9ABY which were ringed in Kolgrafafjordur in May this year). Lots of juveniles of both races apparent in the flock as well. Indeed, the saltmarsh grazing areas have excellent catching potential, and with fine company and the delights of French cuisine to sample, I think this bears serious consideration!

My thanks to Bruno for hosting me, and to Bruno, Alain & Rosalyne for taking the time to show me their patch and stand around in subzero temperatures while I just stood there pointing an aerial out to sea! They have kindly agreed to try again, so hopefully we will learn in more depth about 7VBY’s travels.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Colour marked everythings...

As Adam has reminded me there are lots of colour-marked birds out there with plain or engraved rings. Too numerous to list here but excluding Brent and wader spp there are ...
gulls, terns, dippers, raptors, different species of geese, swans.... Lots of things. Feel free to add details of your colour-marking project in comments here. The new Irish ringers Facebook page is also worth it?

Colour-marked waders

In the last few months I've read colour rings on Oystercatchers (Icelandic), a Knot (poss ringed in Iceland) and Black-tailed Godwit. As with our Brent such observations are invaluable to the co-ordinators of those projects. Information on Godwits and other waders is available in this very interesting series of articles by Graham Appleton. Worth a read :

Monday, 5 December 2016

Reasons for my Repetitive Strain Injuries...

Tonight saw another milestone in my management of the database - I crossed the 180,000 records entered mark!!
This is how it looks in the bottom shelf of the bookcase in my office:

Each colour of file represents yet another collated year's collection from you, our observers, upon we so much depend.
Well done, all of you!!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Inter-tidal Catching...

Catches at this relatively early stage of the winter practically invariably involve catching on the foreshore, as the geese have yet to finish the feed available there. Diminishing stocks on the mud-flats gradually force the geese to seek food elsewhere, and later season catches tend to be land-based.
Inter-tidal catching can be more problematic than land-based. There is the additional factor of the tide to contend with, and the pattern of foreshore usage can be more transitory (although this is a relative term!!).
Today we were out catching again on Strangford Lough, this time at Cross Island, which has become one of the most regular autumn sites in recent years. Two nets were set along the edge of the bay, and both locations proved successful, with seven birds being caught in the first catch, followed by a further eight being netted in the second, just after the initial geese had been processed.

Canon-netter Kerry Mackie extracting, Alex Portig standing by to receive the bird

Such smaller catches are quite normal when catching on the shore, as birds can be more dispersed than the often tightly-packed landward flocks.
It was a particularly useful result of today's attempts that only four out of the fifteen birds caught were adults. That means a further eleven birds of known age have been added to our listings. All fifteen were newly caught birds.
These latest catches bring the grand total of birds caught to 5,052, a magnificent achievement by our canon-netters and all their volunteer helpers (many thanks to everyone!!). Of these, 360 birds had been caught before, so the number of individuals caught is now 4,692, since the programme of catches commenced in 2001.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


Our colleagues at University of Exeter have just released this video on youtube. Highly recommended, as it gives a great flavour of what the geese get up to all the year round, not just when they are on our local patch over the winter.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Yo-yo Bird...

One of our GPS collared birds has been having a very strange autumn!!
7VBY was first seen by myself at Ballykelly, on Lough Foyle, on the north coast of Northern Ireland, with a mate, 9ABY, on 14 September. Didn't even notice it had a collar (I'm a legs man!!). Alex Portig  then recorded it as a collared bird down on Strangford Lough on 23 September, but on 02 October and 03 October, reported by photographs from Gary Platt and David Hill respectively, it was back at Ballykelly. The photograph of the bird landing in (how do these folks manage such sharpness!) was sent in by David:

Now, tonight, news from one of our southerly outposts, the Incleville Saltmarshes at Regneville in Normandy, France, from Alain Livory and Rosalyne Coulomb, that 7VBY has arrived there safely, together with 9ABY.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Birds on the Move...

I was out at the north end of Strangford Lough this morning, and couldn't help noticing that numbers appeared to have dropped significantly.
This observation has been backed up by a text this evening from Patricia Watson, reporting a massive increase on her home patch at North Bull, Dublin.
I wonder whether similar increases are being experienced elsewhere?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Influx from Icelandic staging areas last week and brief census update

Slack wind conditions followed by a southerly airflow over Greenland/Iceland and between Iceland and GB/Ireland in advance of an approaching low (see image below) this time last week  (18th/19th Oct) saw a large influx of Icelandic migrants. Amongst which were Greenland Barnacles (which would have been staging in southern Iceland) arriving to Islay and W Ireland, Whoopers (breeding in Iceland and coming from various parts of Iceland including the major concentration at Lon in SE Iceland) and no doubt some of the 7000+ Brent that Gudmundur counted the preceeding weekend. 

The arrival of 'new' Brent was detected on Strangford by eagle-eyes McElwaine who noticed a wave of 'new rings' (new birds for this season, not present previously). So of course birds have been pushing south from Strangford at the same time at birds have been arriving in from farther north.

Census updates - additional records from Waterford and Kerry amongst other places have pushed our provisional 2016 total closer towards 38,000. We will report detail in some of the next posts.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

International census results coming in....31,000 and rising

Many of you will have been out surveying over recent days. At the end of last week Kerry Mackie and the expert Strangford count team (some say they train for this count by counting hailstones and that they know exactly how many Starlings are in the murmuration nr Slieve Croob) counted over 22,200 there. Two days later, with a different but no less challenging approach, Gudmundur, Finnur Logi and Kristinn H surveyed the bulk of the coastline of western Iceland (Faxafloí nd Breidafjördur), counting just over 7000 birds. Results are coming in from other areas and we'd be very keen to hear about any observations you have. Plse send counts (date/location and other details) to

Thursday, 15 September 2016


We have always suspected that birds from our flyway population can make it as far south as Spain. Yesterday, for the first time, we received confirmation, when Vitor Xose Cabaleiro Barroso from the Andurina ringing group, reported that he had photographed 6ARR, along with its unringed mate and five juveniles!!
Vitor located the birds at Combarro, near Pontevedra, which is in Galicia in NW Spain (just above Portugal). He reports that in Galicia dark-bellied brent is a scarce winter bird, regular and irruptive, whilst pale-bellied brent is a rare bird, irruptive sometimes and mainly in autumn, with some wintering birds. His observation is only the eleventh September record.
6ARR was ringed at Erin's Isle GAA pitch in Finglas, Dublin on 06 March 2013, and had previously been observed in Kerry, Galway, Sligo and  Strangford Lough as well as Dublin.


Sunday, 11 September 2016


Despite the gale-force winds today, managed to get out to Strangford Lough, and spotted the first GPS collared bird (see earlier blog items) of the season, 27ON (Orange/Black(Noir)), at the Maltings. All the birds were struggling to stand up, so I was unable to observe much on its behaviour. Interestingly, also present was the leucistic brent which had been observed last winter, which has a pale back - looks a real oddity!
It was nice to note today that five out of the seventeen ringed birds read had broods of between three and five young trailing after them!!
A couple more reports have come in of first sightings - one of four birds at Killough Harbour yesterday, from Owen Hegarty, and another of seven today at the Gann Estuary, Pembrokeshire from Derek Grimwood.

Friday, 9 September 2016


A couple more emails from different places appear to confirm hopeful signs...
Robin Vage, reporting from Belfast Lough at Kinnegar, at lunch-time today had 32 brent, equally split between adults and juveniles.
Broods were: 2 x 1 juv., 1 x 2 juvs., 4 x 3 juvs.
Then, in came the first record from Dublin, observed at dusk last night, of a single family which included 1 juvenile. This record, including supportive photos, came from Twilight Plunkett.
I was out myself today at the north end of Strangford Lough. The birds are already becoming more dispersed, with significant numbers encountered further south, and rings read, at Pig Island and the Gasworks. Whilst the big flocks out in the middle seldom hold large numbers of juveniles, the latter were very much in evidence around the margins, and particularly adjacent to stream outfalls, with broods of up to 5 juveniles being seen.

Thursday, 8 September 2016


Reports coming in of rings read have been rather sparse to date, and I haven't, with one thing or another, been able to get out myself, looking at Strangford Lough (hope to change this tomorrow, weather permitting!!).
Today, however, I have received two bits of news which provide hope that it might have been a good breeding season.
Firstly, Dave Suddaby, from Birdwatch Ireland, reporting from his home patch on The Mullet, County Mayo, had a flock of 21 geese yesterday (07/09/16) which included 3 ringed birds. Perhaps even of more interest (could this be for me?) was the fact that this flock contained 8 juveniles!!
Then, tonight, Cameron Moore from Whitehead, County Antrim, who records and takes excellent photos or videos of colour-ringed birds, phoned me to say that he has had unusually high (for this stage of the autumn) numbers of brent geese flying high over Larne Lough, presumably heading for Strangford Lough, since last Saturday (03/09/16). Today, however, a flock of 69 geese actually came in and landed near the causeway on to Islandmagee, and he records that, as well as an unread ringed BY bird being present, he noted particularly good numbers of juveniles.
So, watch this space!!

Monday, 5 September 2016


So, since the last entry on the blog...
I recorded a singleton bird at Millquarter Bay, in the Strangford Lough Narrows on
02 September, calling away.
First re-sighting of a ringed bird came in, with a great photo, from..... DORSET!! Chris Patrick observed CLBY at the RSPB Reserve at Lodmoor, Weymouth Bay on 03 September, a bird which was ringed at Dublin in March 2015. Chris thinks the four birds he recorded are the earliest Dorset records by some two weeks.
John Moore recorded "several hundred" geese from Island Hill, Strangford Lough, yesterday, and Frank Eliffe and his wife, Myra, recorded two geese from Laytown Beach, Co. Meath, yesterday, too. He tells me that they keep a note of their first goose record each winter for this location, and this was the earliest.
Kerry Mackie reported this morning that there were now at least1,000 geese at the north end of Strangford Lough, so late this afternoon I have attempted to do a count (not up to Kerry, Hugh Thurgate & Alex Portig's exacting standards, I'm afraid!), and came up with the following:
Greyabbey: 10
North Strangford Lough (out in the middle!): 1,030
Castle Espie South: 128
Castle Espie North: 18
Island Hill North: 200
So, acknowledging that my counting is very far from an exact science, it appears there are now at least 1,400 brent located at the north end of Strangford Lough.
Light wasn't great, but two more sightings added.

Thursday, 1 September 2016


First sighting from this winter of brent geese came in this evening from one of our canon-netters, Kerry Mackie, who reports about 30 at Cultra, Co. Down, flying low over the sea towards Belfast Docks.
I am happy to place any of your "first sightings" of brent from your area on the blog during this early period, if you contact me with the details on

Friday, 15 July 2016


Now that it's July and the brent are hopefully enjoying their breeding season up in High Arctic Canada, it's time to provide a quick update for everyone on some of the early results from the GPS tagged birds (see the blog dated 15 February 2016).
We managed to get GPS downloads from six of these birds in Iceland, which gave us some indication of geese movements during this part of the year, as well as what the birds have been up to since being ringed in Ireland. To give a flavour of the data obtained, Ian Cleasby, from the University of Exeter team, has plotted details of locations for two birds that were downloaded in Iceland, SSRB (in red) and 3LLBO (in yellow). The day and month on which GPS locations were taken are also included in the maps showing the migration between Ireland and Iceland, and the location of ground observations / downloads are shown in white on the maps of Iceland. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this year's fieldwork, from fitting collars to re-sighting and downloading birds in both Ireland and Iceland.


This bird, which was initially ringed during our 2014 expedition to the Canadian breeding grounds, was downloaded on a saltmarsh at Myrar, a vast, relatively undisturbed and inaccessible area on the west coast of Iceland.

After Ringing:

After ringing this bird was recorded mainly from the North Bull area, adjacent to where its collar had been fitted on 08 April 2016.


The GPS data suggest that SSRB began moving north from Dublin on 30 April 2016. By 01 May 2016, it had crossed the north coast of Ireland, reaching Iceland on 02 April 2016.

In Iceland:

When in Iceland, SSRB was recorded as having loitered around Hvalfjordur (Whale Fjord), north of Reykjavik, and east of Akranes, near an immense Aluminium smelter, before moving north to Myrar.


Before the download, 3LLBO had been a bit of a mystery bird. Caught at Malahide on
03 February 2016, it was only re-sighted once from Ireland, the same day, just south at Baldoyle Bay - making where it had been the rest of the winter of particular interest.

After Ringing:

It appears that, at this stage of the winter, Malahide represented the southern limit of 3LLBO's range in Ireland, with most locations being to the north (many at Rogerstown and quite a few from Lambay Island).


3LLBO began moving north much earlier than SSRB, probably on 18/20 April 2016. On the morning of 20 April 2016 there was a GPS fix to the west of the Isle of Lewis, and by nightfall (23:13, to be exact) of the same day, the bird had reached the coast of Iceland

In Iceland:

In Iceland, 3LLBO moved more gradually up the coastline from the greater Reykjavik area, passing Hvalfjordur, where SSRB had been lodged, eventually being seen and downloaded at Blautos, just north-east of Akranes

Condition of GPS Collared Birds

Whilst in Iceland, two GPS collared birds were recaptured, providing a valuable opportunity to examine the physical effect of the collars on the birds. It was found that the collars had caused some abrasion to the birds' neck feathers, wearing off the black tips, resulting in the neck looking a bit greyer.
Initially, whilst watching the GPS birds in Ireland, and receiving comments from other observers on the effect of the collars, there was concern that birds may have been plucking feathers from their necks, exposing down or even skin. However, no evidence was found from either of the recaptured birds that any feathers had been plucked, nor was any down or skin exposed around the collars. More broadly, the collared birds did not appear to have lower API's (a measurement of the bird's weight/condition by abdominal profile) than non-collared birds, and no instances of divorce / family break-up involving collared birds was recorded.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


News has just filtered back, with the return of the B-Team from Iceland, that they downed tools due to very hazy conditions and spent the majority of the trip visiting tourist spots, liquorice factories and swimming pools!!!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Haze - fact or fiction?

In this special guest blog by Dr Igor Igotanitchyone we address the little-known phenomenon of haze. This seems to effect relatively few individuals but causes all sorts of side-effects including nausea, diarrohea and disorientation. 
What we know is that each May a few individuals visiting Iceland suffer from the effects of haze whilst others apparently do not. The effects are illustrated in the pictures below - an example of what normal people see (a typical white-red sequence) and what people unaffected by haze see (pic 2). A further possible contributing factor included in picture 3. 

More sleep, less booze and younger eyes are longer term fixes. Initial tests have suggested that large quantities of ice cream or Skyr may moderate effects in the short term. We'd be interested in your views on this issue. Have you suffered? Can you read rings at > 50m in sunlight? Does age matter?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Hello, is there anybody out there?

The sight of a 4 x 4 with a 2m wooden shaft and white tupperware box driving round western Iceland has generated some perplexed looks. No, we're not a TV license crew. It's the collar-searching team looking for collared birds from which GPS data can be downloaded. That's been going well with more to do.
A small catch yesterday morning was followed by some reccy further north (Hvalafjordur) and then today even further north to Alftafjordur. A few good ring-reads at Svelsjka, Alftaros and south Myrar, some great WT Eagle views culminating in a spectacular sunset. Departing Brent are now T minus 10-14 days...

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Chasing wild geese - spring staging in western Iceland

Direct flight btwn Belfast and Reykjavik. Well there you are. Not before time. Some blog messages on what the Brent and Brent team are at in Iceland. To follow. Brought to you by Jameson........

Skál í botn

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sighting from Kent...

One of our marked geese, PUWR, has been sighted on 02 May 2016 in a flock of around 20 pale-bellied brent, by Scott Haughie at Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate, in Kent. This represents, by far, the most easterly record we have ever had from the south coast of England (in fact it is just around the corner, heading north from Dover), the previous record having come from Hampshire. Scott tells us that pale-bellies are extremely scarce at this location, with the general assumption there being that any brent geese encountered will be dark-bellied. The bird arrived there at around 10 am on an outgoing tide. The Portland Bird Observatory website records an notable influx the same evening.
This bird had been a regular throughout the winter on the salt-marshes at Regneville in Normandy, and had last been recorded from there by Alain Livory & Roselyne Coulomb at 15:30 on 30 April 2016.
There has been conjecture for some time about the boundaries of the wintering ranges between our East Canadian High Arctic flyway population and those of the East Atlantic flyway, and this represents yet another interesting piece in the jigsaw.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Late Season Birds in Ireland...

As the last geese withdraw from Ireland on their long journey, they tend to gather at preferred sites. Local to me here in County Down, this is in Inner Dundrum Bay, Killough Harbour and at the Strangford Lough Narrows.
One thing to look out for at this stage is the high percentage of juveniles. These young birds are generally still fairly obvious, with the white edging to their back feather plumage, and this differentiation will still be observable whilst we are in Iceland next month. Some, however (presumably resulting from the earliest broods last summer), are now less so, and only one or two small flecks of white remain on those feathers, usually located nearest to the bird's rump.
A local example of this build-up has been at Millquarter Bay in the Strangford Lough Narrows. Two days ago, I counted 61 juveniles out of a flock of 134 birds (46%), and yesterday, at the same location, there were 27 juveniles in a flock of 76 birds (36%). It is apparent that having a family in tow can hold back the migration progress, and research, resulting from collating observations of individual birds which have been ringed, has shown that this delay can result in such adults being unable to take advantage of the narrow breeding window in High Arctic Canada, often leading to only year-about success.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Icelandic conditions in Ireland

The sudden cold snap has no doubt left our arriving summer migrants wondering if they've perhaps made a sea crossing too far; for our Brent, well a bit of ice and snow is familiar territory. But, aside from the length of the days one could be forgiven for thinking it was February or March!

As expected numbers of Brent at many of our sites have significantly dropped away in the last few weeks and the recent high pressure and slack winds were the catalyst for that. These last few weeks into early May mean it's the end of the 2015/16 chapter for Brent Geese in Ireland.

Shortly the Brent team will, for just about the tenth successive year, be in the staging grounds in Western Iceland: reading rings, downloading GPS data from the Dublin-tagged birds (which will give us information on the timing, route and duration of the migration from Dublin to Iceland), studying behaviour and rates of energy gain and catching and marking more birds.

Thanks to all for contributing your valuable sightings this year to Graham and for helping with cannon-netting catches. And thanks of course to Graham for his unwavering hard work at reading lots of rings himself, communicating with the large volunteer network and so many hours under desk lamp processing records. Our dataset is near-unique, has enormous benefits for understanding so many aspects of the ecology of this flyway population and each and every contribution is valuable.

Watch this space for further updates from the Iceland end of things as this last spring chapter unfolds.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The journey to Iceland and beyond: insights from past telemetry

Now with birds already in Iceland, numbers building there and falling here (and some passage and short-term stopover en route north through Ireland and W Scotland) weather will play a key role in determining the speed of the migration to SW Iceland.

Information on how this journey is conducted is limited to just a few satellite-tracked birds now about a decade ago. Birds from Co. Kerry (n=2) migrated via the west coast (Inner Galway Bay) and birds tracked from Wexford headed up the east coast, staging at Dundalk, Carlingford and Strangford for up to around 1 week.

Our most detailed series of tracks show a bird leaving Wexford on 16th April in SE winds, stopping at Dundalk (< 1d), Carlingford (2d) and Strangford (5d) - a total of ca. 7 days - and then making the flight at nightfall on 23rd April. Within 24 hours the bird was at Alftanes in SW Iceland but it had made landfall by 18:00 (about 20 hours after departure) taking a route E of Rathlin Island and to the west of the Outer Hebrides. That bird was in fact seen at Castle Espie and at Alftanes at either end of the journey!

That individual staged in W Iceland until 30th May and as this season progresses we'll describe the stages of the journey to give a flavor of the timings and routes that the birds of 2016 will be experiencing.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

First Records From Iceland...

This is always an interesting time of the year for ring re-sightings.
As already reported, birds have been on the move for some time now, evidenced by marked birds appearing at sites to the north of where they have over-wintered. As recently as two days ago, I recorded IJRR at Killough Harbour, Co. Down, a bird which had spent the winter in France, and which has been recorded from Normandy and Killough in both winters now, since being ringed in Dublin in February 2014.
Now come the first sightings of birds which have made the next big jump on their journey to the High Arctic breeding grounds in Canada, as they stage on the west coast of Iceland.
Oli Torfason, who only last week had joined in the catching effort in Dublin, sporting his

distinctive white willies (thanks for the photo, Cian Merne!), started ring-reading on his return home, at Alftanes, just south of Reykjavik, and has already provided nearly 30 records from there. Thanks also to Andy Collins, who recorded F4WR during his first ever visit to Iceland. This bird, located at Seltjarnarnes on the north side of Reykjavik, was in a flock of about 300 brent geese, back near the golf-course where it was ringed in spring two years ago.
So, we can now expect a rapid reduction in numbers here in Ireland, and elsewhere, as the rest of the geese make their move. A good time to try and record remaining marked birds, and particularly to pick up those geese which opt to stage before starting out on the trip to Iceland.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Birds on the Move...

It is some considerable time now since I have posted about the latest news on the ring-reading front. This does not mean that matters have been standing still! Whilst, as now seems to be usual (sorry to all contributors!!), I remain about three weeks behind with giving feedback, collectively by mid-March we had amassed 11,314 records of 1,600 individuals over this winter, which is considerably ahead of last winter. Overall, the database now contains over 170,000 records - brilliant, and thanks to all of you who have contributed!!
As the title of this post implies, some birds are now very much "on the move". From memory, the first record of such a bird I recorded myself was of B7RY at Killough Harbour, County Down on 24 February, a bird which had last been recorded from Dublin by Christer Persson in January. This bird has staged at Killough every spring since being ringed at Red Arches, Baldoyle in 2010. Such records of individual birds staging have been increasing apace since the start of March, so it is well worthwhile checking out the more northerly sites around this time of year. Whilst we have yet to analyse the data from this aspect, my personal impression, from the returns of marked birds, and the general numbers of birds at individual sites, would be that most birds just get up and migrate to Iceland without staging. In particular, there is little evidence that the large numbers of birds which pass through Strangford Lough in the autumn do so on the way back in spring.
Nevertheless, some birds do stage, and appear quite often be quite consistent in the site chosen, like B7RY. Another such bird is U3WR, ringed as a juvenile during an autumn catch at Strangford Lough in 2014. For the second year, this bird has been recorded across the winter in Normandy, France, by Alain Livory, Roselyne Coulomb and Bruno Chevalier, only to be subsequently recorded from Milford Haven in Wales, this year by Derek Grimwood and Brian Southern.
First spring record from the Scottish Islands, where birds sometimes stage in spring (often associated with deteriorating weather conditions), came from North Uist, recorded by David Henshilwood. TLRB had been ringed in High Arctic Canada during our last expedition there in summer 2014, and had last been recorded from Keadew Bay, on the County Donegal coast, by Rachel Stroud and Niall Tierney, during their work on NEWS (Non-Estuarine Waterbird Survey) in January!

Yesterday came news from Gareth Platt that he had re-sighted five new arrivals at Myroe, all of which had moved up there from being recently recorded from Dublin. Gareth has recently been recording on a regular basis from there, a location for which David Nixon and I have only been able to attempt occasional coverage between us in the past. And, better still, Gareth records birds by photographing them - thanks to him for the above excellent shot!! Whilst numbers at Myroe appear to be remaining relatively constant, it will be particularly interesting to establish how much through-put goes on at the site, which is an important autumn staging area.
And finally, news from good friend Magnus Magnusson that 23 brent geese were counted yesterday at Alftanes, the main Icelandic study/catch area, just south of Reykjavik. The geese certainly are "on the move"!!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Look out for GPS-collared Brent geese

We had some mixed fortunes trying to catch over the last couple of weeks, but with some successes at Red Arches, Seagrange, Cadbury’s and Seabury. Our main objective was to get the first GPS collars deployed on some geese. These new collars weigh around 15g and are actually lighter than the ID collars that get fitted to species like Greenland whitefronts. They have a small internal battery and an array of tiny solar panels and we are hopeful that they will last for the next couple of years. The collars log GPS positions and we have base stations that upload the data from them (the first data are likely to start coming in autumn 2016). 
We are observing  these birds to ensure the tags are not having any adverse effects on the birds’ behaviour. The collars can look tight, because of the feathers being fluffed out, but all of them have a good couple of centimetres play in them (enough to allow them to hang loose, but tight enough to stop them slipping over the head and bill). We are keen to gather as much information as possible, as this will allow us to go back to BTO and NPWS to get permission to increase the number we are allowed to deploy. As such we would be delighted to receive details of any sightings you make of these birds. They have a unique colour/letter combination with a blue (double character) ring with white engraving on the right leg and an orange ring with black engraving on the left. Please send any information on behaviour, location etc to me (as well as reporting to Graham through the normal channels).