Every October, some of the newly arrived barnacle geese are captured and rung. It's a great experience to be part of, as most of our job involves caring for wildlife from a safe and at times excessive distance. But more than that the data these rings can provide us would be impossible to gain in other ways. The birds are caught using a cannon net, which is remotely triggered. If a random breeze catches the net then it may mean no geese are caught, however yesterday was a success and over 40 birds were caught and ringed.
Now to put faces to names:
On day release from the Oa, warden Mark plus Dave-off-the-tv.
Liz demonstrating how best to aim your goose. Behind her you can see the captive geese awaiting ringing.
Emily with Mandy, waiting in line. Many hands make light work, but it can also make fast work. It's important to keep the geese moving through as quick as possible to minimize their stress.
The geese are released in the same field they were caught. Most fly off to join others, but some take a more casual departure. You can see here the large white ring which will have a unique 3 letter combination that can be read from afar. It also has a yellow colour ring which relates to the year the bird was caught.
October is a great time to be on Islay. The arrival of the geese and swans, the large flocks of finches and the passage of migrant thrushes and other birds make the reserves feel bustling with life. Amongst the finch flocks on the Oa over the last few, up to four bramblings have been seen.
October is also the time that grey seals give birth to their pups.
This pup on the Oa is a couple of weeks old, in a week or so it will shed it's white fur coat and have to learn to swim and hunt for itself.
The other day I counted over 90 pale bellied brent geese on the salt marsh at RSPB Loch Gruinart. Some of these were ringed birds which I was able to take a reading of and send away to the appropriate people:
Click on this link to the Irish brent goose project for details of a family I identified; these birds were caught and rung in Axel Heiberg Island, Canada, in July (with the use of a helicopter!). This is around 2,500 miles, and Islay isn't even their final destination.
Others that were rung in the group included one that had already made its journey to Stranford Lough a fortnight ago, and is apparently known for yo-yoing between sites! Information from these rings can tell us a great deal about migrating birds movements which we would be otherwise unaware of.
Apologies for the lack of photos, unfortunately I'm not in the habit of taking the camera. However, we are counting again today so I will try to take some then.