Thursday, January 21, 2010

20th January, 2010.

Increased winds and rain didn't forbode well for the second day of the International counts. Thankfully things settled out later and were much better. The counts are done over two days and the figures compared to give as much accuracy as possible. The wintering geese tend to use the same general feeding area each day, although not necessarily the same field! This has been shown based on the study of marked birds and their loyalty to given areas is quite remarkable. All such obviously assists in the compilation of accurate count records within a census of this kind. When first I came to Islay in 1999 quite a number of Greenland White-fronted Geese "wore" numbered collars, which they had been fitted with after being captured during their moult on the breeding grounds or via the use of cannon nets on their wintering grounds. The latter are huge nets which are propelled over a group/flock of feeding geese and allow them to be ringed and fitted with discretely numbered neck collars that can be read from afar. It is from the study of such birds that we know so much about their movements and allegiance to given wintering areas and feeding areas within these.

As the years have progressed fewer and fewer of these collared birds are evident as natural mortality takes its toll. The costs and logistics of mounting expeditions to their breeding grounds are colossal but, given their current status and the concerns this generates, further studies clearly need to be mounted to determine the contributory problems and effects and, most importantly, what might then be done to improve the situation.

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