Monday, 21 January 2013

Brent Geese

Today the birds had move a lot closer to the Bay, but despite being great scope views they remained too far for the camera. A few hundred yards of shore groups of Gannets were diving into the water sometimes from quite a height, while others sat resting on the water. Auks were particularly numerous with Razorbills seeming to out number Guillemots, although this could have been misleading as most of the close birds were Razorbills with the Guillemots mostly further out. As there comes a point where it's difficult to separate them the ratio may have been very different further out. A few Red-throated Divers were  scattered amongst the Auks.

Scanning the shore line I was surprised to see a group of Brent Geese feeding amongst the sea-weed. As I was at the opposite of the Bay I walked along the path passed the beach huts

Brents are small geese, being only slightly larger than Mallards. There are several sub-species or possibly species of Brent Geese, two of which are have significant populations wintering in the UK. Pale-bellied Brent Geese come from Canada and winter in the west of the UK and Ireland. In Kent our Brent Geese are Dark-bellied Brent Geese (although a few Pale-bellieds sometimes stray to our coast).. At one time they were quite scarce but over the last 60 years the population has grown rapidly. Their principal food Zostera suffered a wasting disease and the Brent population fell to fewer than 10,000.

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose breeds along the Arctic coasts of the Yamal, Gydan and Taimyr Peninsulas and winter along the Atlantic west coast of France, the south and east coasts of England, south-west Netherlands and the Wadden Sea

The total population is between 200-280,000 individuals, with about 90,000 spending the winter in southern England and Wales.

I walked slowly down onto the chalk rocks and managed a few pictures, the birds seemed OK with that but I must have look like a hunter when I lifted my camera and they took off and mover further along the rocks to an inaccessible bay under the cliffs.

There were a Total of eleven birds, the most I've seen in the bay, although large flocks are often seen passing further out to sea.

Many species of geese have white sides to the rump, it's possible that when they are flying in formation these are very visible and help them maintain the V shape of their skeins and thus help them fly in the most efficient way possible.

I did catch up with a Rock Pipit while I was down with the sea-weed, although the bird hardly showed against the background.

1 comment:

Fergus said...

Thanks for the information about the Brent Geese. I'd seen them the day before when there were just five. Pictures of the Bay and snow here