Thursday, 28 September 2017

Is the stagnation about to end?

Whilst we have not had any GPS tag downloads as yet at Strangford it really is just a matter of time. We haven't done any recent counts but the numbers seem to be approximately what they were (12,000 ish) and there hasn't as yet been a significant increase in usage of the bays down the lough nor indeed from farther afield as yet.

With undoubtedly thousands still in Iceland, there were observations today of high-flying birds coming in around Scrabo; looking ahead at the weather charts (my favourites are and there are signs of assisting northerlies on Saturday and Sunday which may push more birds our direction.
Family units remain very scarce on the ground and a few groups (including a brood of 5 young) were around Horse Island this afternoon.

If you haven't yet witnessed the flocks at the NW end of Strangford you really should and the time is in the next few weeks - it never ceases to impress; the mudflats are covered with geese as far as the eye can see below the airfield at Newtownards towards Comber.

In two weekends time (around 13-15 October) we'll be conducting our major Iceland-France (and all in between) annual assessment of abundance and productivity. If you're following this blog please put this in your diary.

As ever, reports of flocks are welcome (message us here perhaps) as are particularly observations of ringed birds.

And finally - not all Brent survive the journey. This one succumbed to something or other and was found headless along the NW shore of Strangford. Perhaps Mr Fox had a nibble.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Now Is The Time To Get Out Ring-reading at Strangford Lough....

When birds first arrive on Strangford Lough at the end of August/early September, ring-reading is very difficult, because the arriving birds are nervous, and prefer to follow the out-going tide edge looking for the eel-grass. On the massive Northern mudflats here, this can make them nigh on impossible to see, let alone read rings!! Temperature is also a major factor, and you will hear us "regulars" muttering "heat-haze" under our breath as a problem.
Once this phase is over, however, the birds are forced ever further up the foreshore, even at low tide, to seek food. Combined with the fact that they become acclimatised to the low-flying aircraft practicing their take-off and landings out of Newtownards Airport, there comes a period of about a month or six weeks when they become much more accessible to the telescope. As in the title, now is the time to get out and read rings!! 75%+ of the population will be staging through Strangford Lough, possibly heading on to other small sites where there is no chance of their being picked up and read, so now is the important time for those of you who can make it here to see this great spectacle (30,000+ birds in early October!!), to get out and help!!
Current observations support the notion that this is going to be another VERY poor (<1%) breeding season.
Elsewhere, Cian Merne reports that he did a sweep of North Dublin Bay and Baldoyle Bay this morning, and couldn't find a single brent goose!!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

First Geese Reported From Wales...

Derek Grimwood  - 5 brent at The Gann, Pembrokeshire on 18/09/17, but they didn't stay long...
At Strangford Lough today, Alex Portig scanned nearly 2,000 geese at the North End without finding a single juvenile. I scanned about 1,600 geese from the Montgomery Hide and only found two families, one with 4 young, the other with 2. At Horse Island, amongst relatively small numbers, there were again two families, one with 6 juveniles, the other with 1. As is usual at this time of year, the families tend to be located at the edge of, or away from, the main flocks.
So, there are continuing signs that it may have been a poor breeding season...