Some background history

Our study of this flyway population has grown massively over the last 20 years. The IBGRG ceased to exist for a period in the late 1980s and was rejuvenated in the mid 1990s co-incident with the start of the Irish Wetland Bird Survey. At that point it was apparent that this survey could not adequately assess the size of the LBBG population nor even simple demographic elements such as annual productivity.

While the previous IBGRG carried out censuses, arctic expeditions and indeed colour ringing - very much focussed around Michael O'Briain's PhD work at UCD - there was an absence of colour-marked birds for a decade or so until 2001. At that point Alyn Walsh (NPWS) cannon-netted a small number (~30) at the Wexford Slobs. In October 2003 we held an AEWA SSAP workshop at Castle Espie and at that point now Professor (then Dr) Stuart Bearhop and Dr James Robinson had just secured a PhD studentship looking at habitat switching in ECHA Brent - that was the start of now a decade and a half of a very dynamic, busy and multi-faceted project.

Research Areas

This project is thus about two things - (1) specific research questions about ECHA Brent which provides the scientific information and understanding which underpin our efforts to conserve the population. The framework for this are the list of actions with the species' flyway contained in the 2005 AEWA SSAP. So that is the bread-and-butter information on population dynamics, diet, distribution and movements and many of the causes and consequences of these parameters. (2) tackling wider research questions relating to long-distance migrants that our study population is almost uniquely able to address. Migration is a fascinating subject but understanding how individual migrating animals make their decisions and how this affects the population as a whole is challenging and many questions remain. For example, we know little of how migratory animals manage trade offs within and among seasons and how these in turn drive variation in productivity, survival or breeding phenology. We study these birds throughout the annual cycle, especially in the period from September (Iceland) to end May (again Iceland - the period in between the birds are wintering in Ireland) and have in excess of 5,000 individually-marked birds with huge amounts of life history information on individuals in a database now in excess of 200,000 observations. A massively valuable dataset! Some of the types of work explored are avaiable in the publications pages.

Brent Geese Brent Geese Arriving