Monday, 4 November 2013

Taiga Bean Geese


Probably the most famous inhabitants of Sliabh Mannan, considerably more famous than your present correspondent, are the overwintering Taiga Bean Geese (anser fabalis).
There are only two regular wintering grounds for this species in the UK, the other being in Norfolk. The Sliabh Mannan bean goose population consists of about 250 birds and has been carefully monitored since 1992. In 2008 the area was protected under the EU Birds Directive. This year a tracking study, in which local schools participated, found that the summer home of our geese is northern Sweden. For some reason I had been convinced that they came from Russia, which shows you how little of the bean goose language I really understand.
"Are we nearly there yet?"
"Honk!"
"You've been saying that since Spitzbergen!"
Honk!"
It is of course a very loud language, particularly when flights of well over a hundred birds pass overhead together in their characteristic V-formations. This autumn, if I interpret my records correctly, I saw my first bean goose flight on 27 September. For several days I was being confused by a smart rook who went around imitating goose calls and making me believe that they were early.
From time to time in my winter wanderings I come across hopeful twitchers equipped with binoculars and a great deal of optimism. Around my home we have never seen the birds on the ground, but overflight is common. I get the impression that training flights build up in the new year, prior to the spring departure. Well, it's a long way across the North Sea, you know!
"So, does that mean we're nearly there, then?"
"Honk!"