Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Farewell our dear friend

It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of our dear friend Jón Gunnar Jóhannsson, the trap maker (centre in the photograph above). Jon was a key member of the Icelandic wing of the Brent goose research group and we all spent many hours with him talking about geese and hatching plans to catch them. When we visited Iceland he always greeted our arrival with warmth, hospitality, generosity and his big smiles, doing just about anything he could to make the team (of which he was an integral part) successful. In his day job, he ran an engineering company and his problem-solving was legendary, we still use many of the tools that he designed and built to aid catching and processing the birds. He also took great delight in trying to feed us hákarl (fermented shark) and Brennivin (Icelandic schnapps), which some of us managed to consume. No challenge was insurmountable for Gunni (demonstrating his very great skill as an engineer), our annual visits to Iceland will not be the same without him and he will be sadly missed by all of us. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

And This Illustrates The Last Point of Getting Old Rings Replaced...

As said at the end of the last post, we were particularly delighted to catch three of the birds which had been ringed way back in 2006/2007.
One of these, ZHWW, had a mate, PFBY, ringed at Dundrum a couple of years ago, and they had an unringed juvenile this season. Both adults were caught, and the rings on both marked birds were replaced.
David Nixon, one of our ringing group who was involved with processing the catches both days, took this photo today of these birds with their new "bling", out on the mudflats within yards of where they were caught:

So ZHWW (now CVNW) and PFBY (now HJNW) now proudly present their daughter, ADNW!! May former ZHWW, which was originally ringed as an adult, so of unknown age, survive to provide data for the project for many years to come!!

Big News!! Individual Bird 5,000 Caught Last Weekend!!

First of all, apologies for blog silence over such a long period. All of us have just had too much on, I'm afraid!
On the ringing front, however, there is much to report. At the end of January, Steve Dodd and his team of ringers were successful in catching the first ever winter catch for our project outside of Ireland, when they caught 15 birds at the Menai Straits near Foryd Bay in Wales. These were fitted with the first of the latest ringing combination of Black (Noir) on the right leg, White on the left leg.
So, the Group were out catching again the weekend just past, this time at Dundrum, County Down. Two licensed canon-netters, Stuart Bearhop from University of Exeter, and Kerry Mackie were involved on Friday, just Stuart on Saturday.
I thought it might be of interest to illustrate some of the background work which goes into the catches. First there is the preparation of all the kit, ensuring that the canons are primed, and that all the nets and equipment are present and in order:

Net-setting is usually an early, pre-dawn procedure, never easy to struggle out of bed for!! On this occasion, however, we were carrying out the work against the amazing back-drop of the snow-capped Mourne Mountains:

What has been a real game-changer since they were received before catching in Iceland last spring have been the very realistic decoys, made up for us by Canadian, Chris Nicolai. These have revolutionised the chances of catching at places like Dundrum, which has been so difficult and time-consuming in the past:

Friday saw two nets set side by side, and a catch of 44 birds was achieved first in one of these. The other net was left in place whilst processing these, and a second, small catch of 4 birds followed. Many thanks to the good numbers of folk who turned out to help:

The decoys again worked their magic on Saturday, when another good catch of 48 birds was achieved late afternoon. The significance of this catch is that it means that the Group have now caught and processed OVER 5,000 INDIVIDUAL brent geese since the project started back in 2001, an amazing credit to the canon-netters and all who have helped out with the catches over the years!!
And here is the award-winning goose, JTNW, our speak:

And the bird in question with Stuart Bearhop and the much smaller support team, who had to process in the dark, and eventually all got soaked in the heavy rain, trying to extract the support car out of the field!! Particular thanks to those folk as well:

Finally it is worth mentioning three other very special birds which were amongst those caught. These were birds from the old White/White (WW) series, which had been caught at Dundrum way back in 2006/2007!! As the rings are made of a type of plastic, they deteriorate and become brittle under sunlight, and most don't manage to retain both rings in place for this length of time. So, we need to retrap birds which have previously been caught to replace the rings . This then enables an extension of the study of the lifespan of the individual goose to be made, and helps provide data on survival rates.