I visited Strangford Lough this morning on a dropping tide, and what a change a week makes!! The northerly winds which have been a feature over the past few days have obviously spurred the geese on to make a move, and, whilst I didn't try to do a count, there are now thousands of brent at the north end of the Lough.
For those of you who are not familiar with the north end of Strangford Lough, the photo above shows a fraction of the massive mud-flats which lie beneath the iconic Scrabo Tower, on the skyline. This shot was taken this morning from the car park at Ballyreagh/Maltings, and you will note the green colour in the foreground, which is zostera, the favourite food of the geese. I walked out across this area this morning, and it is clear that the eel-grass (the common name for zostera) has done very well this year. It is this food-plant which attracts the geese to Strangford Lough, and why peak numbers of over 30,000 geese have been recorded from this single site in previous winters, usually in early October. If you have never seen this spectacle, it is well worthwhile the visit!!
Whilst my mobile camera photo only picks up some of the distant geese as dots in the water on the left hand side of the photo, some of the geese were more amenable at Gasworks and at the stream outlet at the Maltings, and I was able to read the rings on 14 birds, which represents a good early start to the season.
Perhaps more interesting, however, was the fact that the first family is already in place! This was a family which included 4 juveniles. As is normally the case, this family was totally disassociated from the rest of the birds. Given that we have now had three very poor breeding years, we can only hope that this is a hopeful sign for the 2015 breeding season!!