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.

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