As the weather improves birds begin foraging and nest-building. Geese that have spent the winter sheltering in Ireland are suddenly preparing to fly north. The most numerous species found in Wicklow is the Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) which masses on the Birdwatch Ireland-protected saltmarshes at Kilcoole. They routinely gather in dense flocks and fly in a big ritualistic circle, moving from grazing area to grazing area like herd of miniature cattle with wings. As they need to fly to survive the geese cannot support the large multi-chambered stomachs many grazers require. Instead they swallow smooth round pebbles which roll around inside their gizzards, processing the food into more digestible matter.
Geese are not the only winter visitors soon to be leaving to breed in northern lands. The Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) is a handsome wader with long reddish legs and a spear-like bill. It is a common sight on the mudflats of the Breaches estuary between Kilcoole and Newcastle. This bird will fly to Iceland, and possibly even as far as Greenland, to breed this summer. Kilcoole is a very good place to see them.