Tuesday 14 February 2017

Colour-ringed Geese

I have put a bit of time in recently sifting through some of the current geese flocks at the Myroe Levels, Lough Foyle in County L'Derry and Fair Head in County Antrim.  I've had a bit of success in finding colour-ringed Pale-bellied Brent and Greylag Geese with 18 combinations successfully recorded plus sightings of a single Barnacle Goose, which are scarce in Northern Ireland, plus some Greenland White-fronted Goose.

On the two visits to Myroe this month there have been up to 1500 Pale-bellied Brent Geese feeding on the turf lawns and quite a number of colour ringed birds amongst them.  I was more successful on my second visit when I found 11 combinations within 5 minutes amongst c700 birds at close range.  There were probably the same number again that I didn't clinch but unfortunately they flushed.  These birds are usually fitted with one coded colour ring on each leg or a combination of colour rings.
The birds originate from the East Canadian High Arctic flyway population (c38-40,000 birds) and breed in the very far north of Canada.  The majority overwinter in Ireland but a number head to western and southern Britain, the Channel Islands, northern France and transit through Greenland and Iceland.  Since the project started in 2001 there have been over 4,700 geese ringed across Ireland, Iceland and Canada and records top the 10,000 mark each year!  Hats off to the Irish Brent Research Group for the fantastic work they do and particularly Graham for processing the sightings
- for more details check out their blog - http://irishbrentgoose.blogspot.co.uk/
I've added the details of five of the Brent and 2 Greylags below and will follow up with the remaining Brent in another pot soon.

2TWR (born pre 2013) was originally ringed in Seltjarnarnes/Golfvöllur in southwest Iceland on the 18th of May 2014 and has been recorded 14 times since, including along Lough Foyle over the past three winters.  It was recorded back in Iceland three times in late spring 2016.

GRXY (born 2011 - female) was originally ringed in Nairn along the Moray Firth in Scotland on the 13th of January 2012 and has been recorded 13 times since ringing.  It was recorded around Lough Foyle last year and has further sightings in County Kerry and Strangford Lough. 

L7B7 (born 2016 - female) was originally ringed at Cross Island, Strangford Lough on the 18th of November 2016.  It was spotted again close-by the following day after ringing and then at the Myroe Levels 12 days before my sighting. 

TUWB (born pre 2008 - male) was originally ringed in Cromane, Castlemaine Harbour, Co. Kerry on the 26th of March 2009.  It has been recorded 25 times since, mainly in 4/5 sites in south Cork and was recorded in Lough Foyle last winter.

UULY (born 2005 - female) was originally ringed at Alftanes, South-west Iceland on the 15th of May 2006 and has been re-sighted a staggering 90 times!!!  Most of these sightings (55) come from around the original ringing site which is in close proximity of the Icelandic capital - Reykjavik.  She has been re-sighted every year in the last 11 years and nine individual years in Iceland and five years at the Myroe Levels.  

At Fair Head the target species were the Greylag Geese with a portion of these being local breeding feral birds.  I found 183 birds in small flocks with two bearing orange coded neckbands plus an almost pure white leucistic bird.  Both birds had been ringed in the Western isles of Scotland on Islay.   

NDD (yellow) was ringed on the 11th of November 2011 as a juvenile female and now appears to be resident on Rathlin Island/Fair Head.
NCL (green) was ringed on the 21st of January 2015 as a juvenile.  It was recorded with a brood in its first summer on Colonsay to the north but returned to Islay for the winter.  It was first recorded in Northern Ireland on the first of February this year.   
Greylag Geese NDD (yellow) & NCL(green)

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