Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Brent Geese arrive back as normal

Well, I say normal, but some closer scrutiny of the flocks might prove otherwise...

The Irish Brent Goose Research Group first reported geese in Ireland on the 4th September, but also remarked that, throughout September, the influx was slower than expected. This could have been down to the weather or to good feeding opportunities delaying the final leg of their journey from Iceland to Ireland. Numbers increased throughout September, and 16,000 were counted in Strangford Lough towards the end of the month. 

Brent Geese David Dillon

The first Dublin sighting was on the 20th September in Malahide Estuary, and from then on they started to be picked up at their regular haunts around the county as the birds filtered down to us along the coast. On the 4th October a flock of 25 were seen on Malahide Estuary, another flock of 11 were on Bull Island and a further 40 were at Merrion Gates on Sandymount Strand. 

The International Brent Goose Census took place on the weekend of the 5th and 6th October and 34,000 birds were counted in the most important sites at this time of the year in Iceland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with 150 of these in south Dublin Bay.

Brent Geese Clive Timmons

So what’s all this about closer scrutiny of the flocks? Well, this year, like last year, the folks at the IBGRG are noticing a low proportion of juvenile birds among the flocks, which of course suggests an unproductive breeding season. By mid-September, the IBGRG had reported some sightings of juveniles in Iceland, but none in Ireland. While some juveniles have been reported here since then, this is definitely something worth taking a closer look at. We have no way to know for sure what has caused this poor breeding season in Arctic Canada, but we can try to put some numbers on it by investigating the proportions of adults and juveniles in the flocks we encounter throughout the winter (see photo below). 

Brent Geese juveniles showing white barring 
on the wing coverts Billy Clarke 

As the numbers continue to build throughout the autumn, we’ll be treated to the amazing sight of these arctic breeders spending the winter right amongst us, and have the privilege of sharing our parks, pitches and beaches with these birds. The sight and sound of thousands of Brent Geese flying en masse from the city parks to roost on Bull Island is certainly something to behold, and one of Dublin’s great natural spectacles. 

Keep up to date with these developments and lots more Brent Goose stuff at: 

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