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