Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Chasing the Angels from the North.

Hello from Russia! After landing back from Iceland on Sunday morning, I spent all of 7 hours at home before heading back to the airport for a flight to Heathrow & then onto St Petersberg. I’m here for several days at a conference & awards ceremony, more on this later…..

But first we should bring an update to the blog on the success of Whooper Swan catching during our last 2 weeks of the expedition. 


In total we managed to capture 138 swans of which 90 were new birds to ringing and 48 were already carrying rings. These recaptures being a mixture of Icelandic retraps, controls & one or two British ringed birds, carrying BTO rings.


Breeding success in one of our main study areas of Bardardalur was somewhat very poor and we only managed to ring seven cygnets in this area (compared to 42 in 2010!). And in total we only noted 13 cygnets in broods of 1 ,1 ,2, 2, 3 & 4. June, in Iceland was unusually very cold and it snowed most days in the valley thus having an effect on the swans breeding productivity, as well as other birds including Ptarmigan, Gyr Falcon, Golden Plover & Whimbrel.


All the cygnets captured in this area, were big enough to hold darvic rings. Which must be a first! As normally we have a small number of cygnets that receive metal rings only, as the darvic ring is too big for their growing tarsus.


So with the small numbers of cygnets around, when then started to target non breeding adults on several lakes in the area.


Landing some particularly useful catches of the non or failed breeding adults, as around 20 of the adults captured had lost their darvic ring – making identification in the field much harder – this allowed us to add the more readable darvic ring.



We caught up with several of our ex transmitter birds, which allowed close examination on them. Even though no birds are carrying transmitters now, it’s always good to catch up with them, knowing that they’ve successfully managed to ditch their transmitters (and later recovered by WWT staff!). NA3 was captured (see previous blog), along with a transmitter bird from 2007 – Blidfinnur. And sadly we found BV5 dead at Kalfborgararvatn (his tagging location). Sad news but good to know that he made it back to his old stamping ground after ditching his transmitter on Coll & Tiree in 2010.


30 Golden Plover chicks gave us the run around prior to their ringing


Along with 10 Whimbrel chicks……….


And their flat flies were duly captured after escaping onto us!


and bottled for a study on parasites, Ptarmigans & Gyr Falcons.


Several Ptarmigan chicks were caught, but sadly too small for ringing! All broods along with adults were counted and the information together with our collected flat flies were handed to the Icelandic Institute for Natural History. 


So another successful expedition is brought to an end & I eagerly await their return to WWT Martin Mere in the next few weeks to see who has made it back for another year running!!

Massive thanks to Sverrir, Aevar, Thorey & Solla for having us along for another year!!

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