Go to the website to see the set-up ...
Tagged geese text home
Mobile phones follow migrating birds.
10 June 2002
Mobile-phone owners can sign up for SMS messages on everything from football
scores to the weather. Now they also have the option of always knowing where
their goose is.
Six of the 20,000 light-bellied brent geese journeying from their wintering
grounds in the west of Ireland to their breeding territories in western Canada
are carrying satellite tags. Anyone sponsoring a goose gets a weekly
text-message update on their bird's position sent to their cellphone or e-mail
"It brings people closer to wildlife," says Mark O'Connell, head of research at
the UK's Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the conservation body behind the scheme.
"It makes people feel they're contributing, it creates interest and it supports
The project will show researchers the birds' route and their key stop-off
points. These sites will become the target of conservation efforts.
Little is known about what the birds get up to between Ireland and Canada. "Much
of the migration route crosses areas where there aren't any people," says James
Robinson, who works on the goose-tracking project at the trust's centre in
After leaving Ireland in April, the geese headed to Iceland, where they spent
about a month feeding up for the rest of the journey. Then they flew to
Greenland. The total journey is about 7,000 kilometres, and the leading geese
should be reach the breeding grounds in the next few days. The tagged geese's
current position is displayed on the Internet.
Since leaving Iceland, the birds have only made short stops to rest - this is
unsurprising, as they are crossing ice pack.
They fly at all hours of the day and night, depending on the weather.
Combining tracking and weather data reveals what conditions the birds fly in,
and how they plan their journey, says ornithologist Preben Clausen of the
National Environmental Research Institute in Roskilde, Denmark. Using satellite
tags, he has found that light-bellied brents flying northeast from Denmark
towards Greenland and Siberia like to take off with a tailwind.
The Wildfowl Trust's tags should still be functioning for the return journey.
"We don't know anything about migration coming back again, and the most
important staging sites are on the return route," says Robinson.
The Trust tagged males - the tag might interfere with females' mating. They also
picked birds in good health, to make sure that the 30-gram tag would not hinder
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