Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Successfully twitched by me/Rich/Stephen early this afternoon (although only just!!). Back off out into the field again now, full update later...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Age and experience: Team Jameson back in the motherland

With a combined average age of 91 and average beard length of 5cm (average brought down by Pat's lack of), reinforements from the 4 provinces of Ireland have arrived to keep an eye on the young 'uns, chew the fat and drink the ale. Pat - can you keep them on the straight and narrow?!
I received a text update yesterday from Air Vice Marshall McElwaine and it summarises as follows:
"Good evening!! Wild strong winds here, but the unsurpassable TJ marches on!! 53 rings read north of Mossfellsbaer. Heading to Breidafjordur tomorrow; young guys got the local stuff carved up".
So with the Heineken Cup looming it's only the fact that Munster are not in the final that is going to maintain this effort and minimise Jamo intake offset by vanilla ice cream.
Keep her lit lads!

Research update

Things are still very busy for us around Alftanes. Fieldwork each day is starting at 4.30am and finishing at about 10pm - although we aren't all out for all of this! After today's efforts we've now completed about 2800 resightings of nearly 500 different colour-ringed brent geese around Alftanes and collected over 180 audio recording of behavioural watches on birds (15 hours worth!!). In the gaps between time in the field, I'm just about keeping up with data entry and have managed to start constructing the first (very preliminary) networks - maybe more on these soon.....

Getting towards the end of another long day in the field: Alftanes Golf Course this evening

Black Brant

There seem to be two separate brants at Alftanes currently, one is much paler than the other but a little bit of research suggests both seem to be black brants (Branta bernicla nigricans), birds that should be migrating up and down the Pacific flyway in North America rather than in Iceland with our geese! Some digiscoped pics below:

Note the very full, joined-up collar, very dark breast and back and clean white flanks. This is the paler of the two birds - the other is more impressive still!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Brent on the box

Our Chairman, the Rt Hon Mr Murphy, has informed us of some upcoming coverage of Brent on a piece on RTE's Nationwide on Friday evening. The main feature is on the new Wetland's Centre at Blennerville (Tralee). The IBGRG supplied some interpretative material for the displays there so I guess that's the Brent link. I have a sneaky suspicion that Mr Murphy might feature too but he hasn't declared that. In the very same place a certain someone was behind the camera rather than in front of it unaware that he was recording audio too. A true comedy moment "I told them not to put the net there.....I told them to put the net there". BS :-)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Blautos and Grunnafjordur

A nice change of scenery for us on Tuesday afternoon. Am beginning to explore the idea of using this area as a second site for fieldwork. There were at least 700 brent at Blautos spread over the mudflats and saltmarsh, but we struggled to find any elsewhere.

More on this morning's Turnstone

Thanks to some impressively speedy work from Kendrew this afternoon, I already have a full history of today's colour-ringed turnstone to hand! The bird was ringed as an adult in 2001 on Southampton Water, which makes it at least 12 years old - quite old for a turnstone already according to the BTO website. Amazingly it has been seen in the same area during mid-May in four previous years, including at exactly the same site in three of them!! Thanks to all involved in this speedy turn around of information!

Perhaps inspired by this, had a quick look at the knot in the roost on Hliosnes this evening and, amazingly, quickly found a ringed bird. Frustratingly it dived into the flock and was lost from view before I could get any details...

After a slightly frustrating morning, we had an excellent rest of the day - and ended up disappointingly just short of 300(!!) resightings (although definitely not 300 different birds..) for the today and over 20 focal watches - a great haul from a combined effort of nearly 17 hours in the field. The discussion this evening over dinner was when we were going to break the 300 for the first time. Maybe tomorrow....

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Colour-ringed Turnstone

A good spot this morning by Rich, feeding on the road side at Seltjarnarnes. A quick look at cr-birding suggests it was ringed in Hampshire (England) - will hopefully be able to find this out for sure soon....

Still too busy to blog properly...

Rich and Stephen did the early morning shift round Alftanes/Hafnarfjordur/Seltjarnarnes today leaving me with some time to catch up on data entry (and a little bit of sleep!). The racked up an impressive 125 resightings in this time alone, which meant we decided to make a trip recce trip up to Blautos in the afternoon. It was low tide and birds were scattered all over the estuary/lagoon with none in the fields, so we explored northwards around Grunnafjordur and whilst not finding many geese had a good opportunity to learn the layout of the area and the key roads/tracks to use. At one point we had breathtaking flyby views of a hunting Short-eared Owl that stopped to investigate the car a couple of times. Rich has some awesome pictures that will hopefully be on his computer and stealable soon! After this we headed back to Blautos and spent some time reading some rings on the estuary and on the saltmarsh near  the stables, although many birds were on the far side and out of range of our scopes. Still it was a useful recce trip and we plan on heading back closer to high tide to assess whether it would be a good field site for our social networks stuff soon. The evening saw another tour round our Alftanes route with plenty more resightings and focal watches recorded along the way.

Otherwise, there is relatively little to report from the previous couple of days. Fieldwork still seems to be progressing well  (after today we're up to about 1600 resightings of nearly 500 different colour-ringed geese, and have recorded close to 100 of our five minute behavioural focal samples) and there have been a smattering of birding highlights along the way. An adult/near adult Kumlien's type gull at Seltjarnarnes yesterday was nice, and I have also picked out a couple of apparent GlaucousXHerring hybrids at a couple of sites. At Seltjarnarnes one of these was flying up to drop and break open shellfish on the rocks along the shoreline which was quite cool to watch. Goose wise the Black Brant still remains at Alftanes and yesterday we found a putative Grey-bellied Brant to go with it (pictures on the way soon hopefully), with a smattering of dark-bellied brents and the same small group of barnacle geese also still amongst the pale bellies.

Hopefully more to come soon....

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Rings galore!

Most of our days tend to be spent like this...

Well the data entry is done, but it is very much time for bed - Stephen is arriving from Hvanneyri at 4.30 tomorrow morning and someone has to be up to let him in! Another really good day. We managed to read 220 rings (165 different individuals) despite going on a brilliant tour of some of the sights (and smells!) of the Reykjanes peninsula for some of the morning. Thank you Oli!!

Today's effort now means we have done over 1000 resightings since starting on 30th April, just have to keep it going now. Will try and post a fuller update tomorrow when with three of us here there might be a bit more time free....

Still Brent in Wicklow!!

Niall Keogh let me know today that there are still some brent geese hanging on at Kilcoole! See here -  - for more info and a picture. There has definitely been a big arrival at Alftanes over the last couple of days though, with lots of "new" rings appearing and what seems to me at least (we'll have to wait for Mummi's count really!) to have been an increase in numbers too.

Stories from today from me and Rich may/may not be posted later depending on whether data entry ever ends.......

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Alftanes in the sunshine

Another late night, another token effort to update the blog! After a slightly frustrating morning today might have turned into our best yet. A quick look at the notebooks suggests well over 200 resightings, and on top of this we recorded at least 15 (probably more) focal watches on colour marked birds throughout the day.

The undoubted highlight of the day was bumping into Oli, who just happened to have an Icelandic delicacy sitting in a bucket in the boot of his car for us to try. The sur hvalur (sour whale), made from blubber from the throat pouch of a fin whale, certainly had a very distinctive taste! (sorry to the Icelanders if I've got any of the details of this wrong...)

Anyway here are some pictures of Alftanes in the sunshine today!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Its late, the alarm is set for hideously early tomorrow morning (again!) and the camera is in the car so there are no pictures to upload, so just a brief update on how things are progressing up here...

The last couple of days have seen a combined total of about 28 hours in the field and this has resulted in our resightings total reaching 550 by the end of this evening. These 550 resightings are of about 280 birds, which shows just important the area is for Brent staging (we haven't made it away from Alftanes/Hafnarfjordur/ Seltjarnarnes yet). In addition to this we have started recording five minute focal observations on colour-ringed individuals - more on why we're doing this when I have a bit more time! All in all stuff seems to be going OK so far, although lots of frustrations along the way with uncooperative geese often choosing the worst possible times to fly away!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Best ring read of the day!

Rich's awesome photo let us get a read on CJBW before it had even landed in "field 17" this afternoon!! A good job too as it wasn't an easy spot for ring reading. 

Getting to know Alftanes...

Rich and I completed three tours of the Alftanes peninsula today as well as dropping Stu back off at Keflavik, although our post dinner jaunt was a bit too late in the day to add anything much to the previous two. Still the weather was great and the geese behaved well meaning we managed to read about 150 rings during the day. This included lots of "old friends" I'd bumped into in Dublin over the winter.

Other highlights at Alftanes were a smart Black Brant spotted in fields near the roundabout (next time the camera won't be in the boot!!), at least 7 Barnacle Geese and a single Dark-bellied Brent. Elsewhere a quick seawatch from Gardur on the way to the airport produced a single "blue" Fulmar (a first for me) amongst an impressive stream of other seabirds.