Now winter is starting to bite at our toes but the weather during autumn was pleasantly dry and bright which was so welcome for survey and fieldwork. During September the Marsh Fritillary survey was completed early as recommended by the Biodiversity Data Centre, who co-ordinate the survey around the country. Much to my dismay, there was no signs of webs at the two study sites. Maurice Simms confirmed he hadn’t seen any webs either. Perhaps it was too early for the west Donegal webs or else the Marsh Fritillaries have temporarily moved location. I came across webs in October at a new location where they haven’t been recorded from before.
October is all about the winter grazing agreements, gets the grazing plots ready for the cattle and horses. That means checking the fences are stock proof, the gates and locks are in working order and the signs are all intact. It is always an ideal time to visit the farmers who take the grazing and have a cup of tea and a catch up.
During October the good news came that the Greenland White fronted Goose study group would be able to fit satellite collars to some of the flock at Sheskinmore. So the preparation for that got underway during that month with visits from two of the group, Alyn Walsh, NPWS, Wexford and Tony Fox, Aarhus University, Denmark. They were pleased with the set up and its suitability as a catch site.
Two other researchers joined Alyn to carry out the fieldwork in mid November, they travelled from Missouri and Texas to fit the satellite collars to two females. Working on migratory birds requires the collaboration from experts based in many different countries, they also need to have migratory habits. The target was to catch two females and so it was a relief that the effort was a success. The goose feeding area was sparsely covered with barley and particularly where the canon net was set, in order to attract the flock into a particular spot. Two pairs of geese finally decided to feed on the barley in the catch area and the net could be caste.
The two males were fitted with orange neck and leg rings and the females with the grey satellite collars. The birds were weighed and measured and released shortly after their capture. The females movements are recorded every day and is already returning new and useful information about the sites they use and their flight lines. As well as giving information on their location the collars will indicate whether the females are breeding or not when they return to Greenland. Other GWF flocks from the Swilly, the Midlands and the Wexford Slobs, as well as from Islay have also been successfully fitted with satellite collars. This research will gather information on the birds which will help to protect their wintering and breeding grounds as well as detect their breeding habits and contribute to understanding their breeding needs.