Two very successful days for the arctic brent research team as we have caught on both days on land, water and air. The geese can run but they cannot hide, or fly away.
The first catch was done at a nearby Great South Lake and involved setting our net on land at the far shore and driving the geese by paddling two zodiacs towards them. There were only 3 geese on the lake, but it was a nice day for boating. Alan and Kerry set the net with two long wings and a central holding pen with a door. Tom and I were in one boat with Graham and Chantelle in the other. Chantelle is the best and most experienced at using these boats so she gave us some pithy advice on rowing before promptly falling in the water as the boats were launched. Graham and Chantelle rowed a wider arc down the lake than us were the water was still. In contrast, Tom and I tried to hug the ice upon the lake on our route and battled bravely against strong currents and icebergs. We successfully drove 2 birds into the net between the combined boat and land teams. The third goose flew away, which hardly seems fair. As we pulled the boats from the lake Chantelle fell in the muddy shore, but she is the most experienced boater amongst us so we were not worried. One bird was already ringed JLLY and presumably the other birds was its partner,. All that was left afterwards was a reasonable walk home.
Catching 2 birds is great but today we went 'nuclear' and brought the chopper in. Alan, Kerry, Tom and I got the helicopter in the morning and went scouting for geese and catch sites. Chantelle and Graham were to be flown in after we had caught to help measuring the birds. Initially it looked bad as all the places we had seen geese were deserted. However, we eventually saw a large flock of adults that would be a good target. The net was set quickly and then we lay down 2 people at the end of either wing of the net. In the meantime our pilot John Innes drove the flock from further along the coast to our net. The geese approached quickly but were reluctant to enter the net to the point that some brave geese stopped and sat down just metres from the helicopter. The four of us sprang into action to encircle the geese while the rotor blades thundered overhead and grit from the the downdraft lashed our handsome faces. I am sure to bystanders it looked really cool, or would have if there had been any. In total , we got 73 with 4 escapees. Credit to John who did most of the work. Catching was quick but processing the birds took longer, but John helped and seemed to enjoy his role of passing geese to folk. Some birds already had rings but most were birds we had already caught this trip, so the geese may be forming larger flocks . Some females may have been failed breeders as well judging by their plumage. So, a great day with some stupendously brave little geese.
Back at camp we opened some new Maxi Fruit biscuits. They are soft oatmeal with a jam filling and are bordering on cake territory. They fall just short of the maple creams in our biscuit pantheon, but still a nice treat after our success. Of course, once we return to Resolute the biscuits will be off the chart.
IMAGE: Alyn Walsh