Wednesday, 6 April 2016

All at Sea: Migrating Oystercatcher checks out research vessel

One of our trusty project contributors and prolific ring-reader, Niall T. Keogh, is on a boat hundreds of miles away, in the middle of the ocean, but he’s still managing to find reasons to get in touch with us about Oystercatchers, and we're so glad that he did!

“Monday 28th March 2016 saw the R.V. Celtic Explorer over the Rockall Bank, approximately 245 nautical miles WNW of Tory Island, Co. Donegal. The seabird and cetacean survey team from the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre GMIT and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group were out on deck collecting observational data during the annual Blue Whiting Acoustic Survey. We had stopped to deploy a CTD (for measuring water temperature, salinity etc.) and while enjoying nice views of a Great Shearwater circling the ship the unmistakable call of an Oystercatcher could be heard! The bird (in full breeding plumage) was seen flying around the ship, calling loudly and looking rather worried as it was being actively chased by a Fulmar!”

Location of the Oystercatcher sighting from the
R.V. Celtic Explorer over the Rockall Bank

Iceland-bound Oystercatcher being chased
 by a Fulmar
Niall T. Keogh
This is a great record, and while this might sound strange at first, an Oystercatcher out in this part of the sea at this time of the year is to be expected really. It’s most likely on its way to Iceland for the breeding season.

We know that three of our Dublin-ringed Oystercatchers are already there, and it’s the second year that each have had their colour-rings read there. JA was reported in Sandgerði in the southwest on the on the 19th March, and the next day XT was re-sighted in Leirhöfn in the north east. And just a few days ago, on April 1st, CU was picked up in Stokkseyri in the southwest.
Oystercatcher CU replenishes its energy with a tasty
 snack after a long flight Tómas Grétar Gunnarsson
Niall also mentioned that another two Oystercatchers were seen flying north together over the middle of the Rockall Trough a few days later.

Visible migration. Sure it’d blow your mind…