I’m now sat in Keflavik airport, after spending a very enjoyable 3 weeks out in the field, mainly catching & ringing Red Throated Divers. Seeing as though my flight is not until another 6 hours – I thought doing a little blogging will pass time!
When I first found out that I would be participating in Diver research in Iceland this year, I thought it would be a nice change from working with Whooper Swans and that I’d also get to see parts of the country that I’d never visited before. Not just that but also capturing a species that I very rarely see, never mind handle! So I was pretty excited!
I landed in Iceland on 01st June where I met Ævar Petersen & Ib Krag Petersen at the airport, we stayed the night in Reykjavik, preparing food & equipment for the expedition – before heading off to Myrar on the west coast to catch Red Throated Divers.
Upon reaching Myrar one of the first jobs was to locate RTD nests and to see what stage of breeding the birds were at. However it seemed that the birds were later in laying eggs this year & some had been predated by Arctic Fox so we only managed to find a handful of nests containing eggs. It was decided that we would abandoned catching birds for a few days, and concentrate on taking egg biometrics & surveying a 30km square for nesting birds.
Having some spare time from trapping the Divers allowed us to track down a Raven’s nest & ring the pulli within – 3 chicks.
After the surveying of the 30km square was complete it was time to catch the RTDs from the nests that we had previously located.
The eggs in the nest were removed and placed into an incubator which sat in the back of the car, these were replaced by fake eggs – which made sure that the real eggs didn’t get damaged during the catching process.
Fake diver eggs.
Once the fake eggs were in place, the trap was set and we retreated back to the summer house – so that we could watch the adults returning back to the nest & trigger the trap (from a remote control).
and…….. a short while later we caught some Red Throated Divers!
The whole purpose of catching the Divers is so that Ævar & Ib can study where the birds are wintering. And to do this they are using small devices called data loggers, which can be fitted to small darvic rings. The loggers record the light intensity (of the location of the logger) along with date & time. Fantastic this is, however the only way of retrieving the data is to re-catch the bird & remove the logger!
Data loggers ready to be fitted.
It was thought that the birds where spending the winter off the coast of the UK (North Sea & Irish Sea) but data downloaded from the already retrieved loggers suggests that the birds are staying off the coast of Iceland, with some nearing Greenland.
On the 7th June, Jim Williams from the Orkney Ringing Group joined us in the field at Myrar. Jim has been catching & ringing RTDs on Orkney since 1978 and came to Iceland to show Ævar & Ib how he catches RTDs, using large wader nets.