Friday, 22 October 2010

Bear Necessities.

Barnacle Geese. Phillip Tomkinson.

In my post yesterday I recorded the excellent sighting of eight Barnacle Geese quite low over  Plover Scar at Cockersands and flying south, it was the best record of the day for me and took the total number of this species to thirty eight in two days birding. I also commented that this number surely indicates birds of wild origins rather that feral birds which is often suspected to be the case in our area....But a serious and tragic story is unfolding, it is a story with more than one edge to it and involves the Barnacle Goose.

There are fears that Polar Bears - which are hungry because of the melting ice in the Arctic which is making the hunt for seals too difficult - are feasting on the eggs of the Barnacle Goose (BG), in itself a serious problem for the birds but it also adds to the fact that a conservation success story is now in serious jeopardy.

In the 1940's numbers of BG had slumped to below 300, today up to 30,000 can be seen from WWT Caerlaverock following the BG's revival through a conservation success story. According to research, last winter saw only half of the expected numbers of BG goslings on the Solway Firth and the reason for this is being placed on the Polar Bears as prime suspects as more and more are gathering around the islands off Spitsbergen where the birds breed, and evidence has been gathered by finding wrecked nests and egg debris and the added advantage of photography showing Polar Bears at nest sites. 

All this is suspected to be connected to climate change which the world is now in the grips of, which is reducing the polar ice-floe, making life difficult for the Polar Bear in the hunt for the seals they feed on and which in turn are being driven by hunger to prey on the nest sites of the Barnacle Goose. 

So, there appears to be a dilemma here brought about by two species of conservation concern which are clashing over the right to survive and is a prime example of the kind of tensions the natural world is experiencing right now in the 21st century, it is to say the least, pretty tricky to know how to resolve this dilemma without the risk to one or both Barnacle Geese and Polar Bears.

Thanks to Phillip Tomkinson for the excellent photograph of five Barnacle Geese in flight at sunrise/set.  


Warren Baker said...

cant blame the Bears pete. There is no balance to be had, one or the other will pay the price of man, and his unwillingness to change his ways...........again!

Pete Woodruff said...

Have to be careful not to sound too 'doom and gloom' here Warren, after all it's just another birding blog....but you have to wonder if we can ever halt this climate change and the catastrophe it brings with it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete.
There needs to be more evidence over a longer time period. Predator/prey relationships and their habitats are very complex. If it is the case then there will be a knock on effect of the seal population, more seals less of their prey etc etc...........

Pete Woodruff said...

Thanks for looking in and your comments which are valid Steve.

Anyone with a remote interest in our planet and the humans and wildlife it supports will be constantly watching situations like this.