Our first catch of Brent Geese was taken at Blue House Farm over the weekend of 26-28 January 2018; the first time that this species has been ringed in Essex for forty years. Eighteen birds were colour ringed with green rings with two white letters.
Thanks to the various teams over the weekend and of course huge thanks to EWT and in particular Harry Smith (warden) and Tim Lawrence (assistant Warden) at Blue House Farm.
Friday 26 Jan 2018
A team arrived to set at Blue House Farm Essex Wildlife Trust reserve on Friday 26 January and with David Low and the reserve staff informing us there were around 800 geese using the fields we were hopeful for the next three days attempts.
The set on Friday was quickly done and decoys deployed behind the net line. In hindsight we believe we put the decoys slightly too close together and this may have not looked natural enough to birds. We had a number of birds come onto the field but were unable to get any decent numbers into the catching area. Last thing we had a small family group of five birds in the catching area which we decided not to fire on as there were still a lot of birds present on the reserve and we did not want to disturb the whole flock for such a small number.
Saturday 27 Jan 2018
Saturday morning came with new hope and an adjustment of decoys to spread them out and attempt to make them look a bit more natural was undertaken. Mid morning as the geese came off the river around 800 geese took to the field we had set the net in. Initially the first groups to arrive were away from the catching area but as more arrived they spread around the field including behind the decoys. However, they appeared to seem to have a bit of a sixth sense and knew where the catching area was! At one point the only bit of grass visible was the catching area and we had geese surrounding the net decoys and catching area. A brave attempt by Barry to walk them into the catching area did not seem to work and we left them to settle. To our dismay a dog walker spooked the whole flock and we lost them to near right field (two fields away). This was very disappointing and we decided to see if we could move them from the field they had gone to back to the field we had set in. After a few pushes they went back out on to the river. We then decided to leave them to settle and see what happened. We went into the farmhouse for lunch and decided to look out every 20 minutes to see what was happening. After 20 minutes we had about 50 birds back on field two fields away from the set. We left it for another half an hour to see if the number built up. When we came out again at the back of the farm house we saw the geese in the far field had gone which was disappointing. I decided to check the field where we had set to see if there were the last few Canada Geese in there that we had left grazing – to my amazement we had a group of Brent in the catching area! I just ran back to the farm house and grabbed the firing box running to the firing point and charging the box as I went. Barry roused the rest of the team from the Farm House and came out to call safety for me. With a quick check with Barry on safety the net was deployed and the first catch of Brent Geese in Essex for 40 years was taken. With the wind increasing and running straight at the net unfortunately the net held up a little in the wind and we probably lost half of the birds that were in the catching area as they beat the net out. None the less the team quickly extracted the birds and we took them over to the processing point to start to ring them. All eighteen were colour ringed weighed and measured and put in the trailer for release as an individual flock. On finishing the ringing the whole flock were released and went off perfectly from the trailer.
Sunday 28 Jan 2018
Probably the less said about Sunday the better. In short we were successful in getting around 60 Brent Geese into the catching area just after lunch time only for the net to misfire due to two cartridges taking in water. This resulted in the whole flock disappearing and nothing being caught due to the net just not deploying.
Overall a successful weekend due to taking the first catch of Brent Geese for 40 years in Essex but disappointing because it could have been so much better if we had managed to secure a second catch.