Red-breasted Geese

RED-BREASTED GOOSE WINTERING SEASON 2017-2018

Now that the winter season is almost over and the last Red-breasted Geese have left the area of their traditional wintering grounds (the lakes of Shabla and Durankulak), here is the overview of our findings and activities in the past four months:

This winter we had a very peculiar situation – very mild weather with day temperatures reaching over 10 0C even in January.  The milder winter conditions and the lack of snow, which allowed good grazing for the birds further north-east in Ukraine and Russia, resulted in a very late arrival of the Red-breasted Geese in their wintering grounds along the western Black Sea coast and very low numbers compared to previous seasons. The first Red-breasted Geese arrived in their traditional wintering grounds in Bulgaria as late as mid-January. On 15 January 2018 we had the first 335 Red-breasted Geese roosting in Durankulak Lake in Bulgaria and later in the day – about 2000 Red-breasted Geese in the Romanian part of Dobroudzha just across the border.

A higher number of wintering Red-breasted geese was registered in the last days of January. At that time about 5000 Red-Breasted geese and only 2300 Greater White-fronted geese (which usually are much more numerous than the Redbreasts) were observed during our regular monitoring of the wintering birds in the region of Durankulak Lake and the Shabla Lake Complex. The birds stayed in the region for a couple of days only, then their number fluctuated between 600 and 1000 until mid-February until they eventually retreated north.

The variable weather in late February and early March – from very warm (about + 10oC) to very cold (down to about – 10oC) with thick snow cover and strong northern winds just at the time when the geese are ready  to depart north to their breeding grounds in the Siberian tundra – was obviously the reason for the constant divergent movement of the geese along the western Black Sea coast and their irregular number in the Bourgas Lakes and Shabla Lakes in the last 2-3 weeks.  On March 5, 2018 we held our last monitoring session for the season and established a mixed flock of about 2500 – 3000 Red-breasted Geese and about 7000 Greater White-fronted Geese in the wheat crops south of Durankulak Lake. Smaller flocks of about 60 to 90 Redbreasts were flying around during the whole day. On the next day about twice as many birds were counted by our colleagues at Shabla – Ezerets Lake, plus another big flock of about 5000 Redbreasts in the Bourgas Lakes further south. At the time being, all the geese have left the area.

Just for reference:

The highest total count of Red-breasted Geese from their wintering grounds came in January 2013 during the International Waterfowl Count, when around 56,000 birds were counted in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. This is believed to be around the current population of the species (AEWA).

On February 15, 2017 we counted 23’780 Red-breasts, together with 47’000 White-fronted Geese and 160 Greylag Geese.

On the background of the unusual delay with which the Red-breasted Geese reached their traditional winter roosts this year and their short stay in the area, we conducted less monitoring and patrolling sessions than we had planned. We started our surveys already in December and we continued them till the beginning of March. During that period we established a much lower hunting pressure compared to previous years, due to the very low number of geese. Poaching usually occurs when hunters come organized from abroad or elsewhere in the country (which was not the case this winter), and out of the hunting season, which is why we continued our surveys till the beginning of March. The bigger problem this season, however,  was the illegal fishing with nets in the dark part of the day, which disturbs the geese at their roosts on the lake and chases them to seek safety in the sea waters. We reported about 20 such instances and managed to prevent about 30 more.

Our combined monitoring and patrolling surveys in the wintering grounds of the globally-threatened Red-Breasted Goose this winter were exclusively carried out with the support of the PUGET SOUND AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF ZOO KEEPERS (PSAAZK), to whom we are extremely grateful! The PSAAZK are also supporting our public awareness raising activities during the rest of the year – participation in public events, such as Earth Day, Biodiversity Day, green festivals, exhibitions etc.

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“THE WILDLIFE OF NORTHEASTERN BULGARIA” IS SHOWN IN RUSSE

Throughout the month of April 2017 our photo exhibition “The Wildlife of Northeastern Bulgaria” will be exhibited at the Regional History Museum – Russe. It was opened on the occasion of the International Day of Birds, April 1, and is located in the hall for temporary exhibitions in the eco-museum with aquarium.

The exhibition is realized by the Wildlife Conservation Society in partnership with the Regional History Museum – Russe. It is dedicated to the birds, the rich biodiversity and natural beauty of northeastern Bulgaria, shown through the lens of talented photographers and environmentalists  Mladen Vasilev, Chavdar Nikolov, Victor Vasilev and Dimitar Georgiev.

The exhibition is part of a project of the Wildlife Conservation Society devoted to theoretical and practical training of volunteers to build skills to recognize and describe the rare and endangered plants and birds. The project is financed by the program BG03 of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area from 2009 to 2014.

The photos from the exhibition you can see here. If you wish to help birds and wildlife conservation in this region, join our activities!

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IT’S STORK TIME AGAIN

Spring is already on our doorstep and spring migration is going in full swing. We got convinced yesterday during one of our regular visits to the protected area Yatata (The Flocks) near Varna, which is our favorite in the area.

Besides the first flock of about 150 White Storks, which soared overhead, rewarded us greatly and continued west,  in the lake we had dozens of Pygmy Cormorants, nine species of ducks and diving ducks, including the globally threatened Ferruginous Duck, Gray  Heron and White Heron, Marsh Harrier and even a Greater White-fronted Goose, probably late with migration.

Yatata is the place with the great variety of birds in the region of Varna-Beloslav complex in all seasons. It supports over 220 species of birds, including 6 species threatened with extinction worldwide, such as the Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis), the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus), The White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicula) and others.

The site plays an important role for the breeding Marsh Harrier, Black-winged Stilt and Gadwall. During migration and wintering,  it is among the most important places in Bulgaria for many rare and endangered species, such as the Pygmy Cormorant, The Ferruginous Duck, The White Stork, the Glossy Ibis and The Whooper Swan.

Unfortunately, we were badly surprised by the polluted observation platform on the side of the road Varna – Beloslav, which we have repeatedly cleaned and which we had even laid out with a wooden platform some time ago. Also, the old information boards are now only faded signs on empty structures.

We hope to be able to jointly fix what was destroyed intentionally or unintentionally. Soon we will launch donor program for cleaning and maintaining this unique site. We already have the support of our partners from Neophron Tours and Thousand Voyages, and we hope to receive yours too.  Please follow our initiatives and campaigns here.

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THE RED-BREASTED GEESE ARE STILL NUMEROUS

The Red-breasted Geese (Branta ruficollis) are still numerous at the lakes of Shabla and Durankulak, North-eastern Bulgaria. On February 15, 2017 we counted 23’780 Red-breasts, together with 47’000 White-fronted Geese and 160 Greylag Geese. In one of the flocks we also spotted a Lesser White-fronted Goose. The geese are actively feeding in the winter crops by the lakes to accumulate energy for their 6000 km long flight back to Siberian tundra.

Although the number of the wintering geese in Coastal Dobrudzha is stable this year, it is still important to ensure their survival and reduce the threats they are facing. The main one is the hunting disturbance in November, December and January, which we target by patrolling and working jointly with the regional forestry and environment authorities. This winter alone we have prevented or stopped over 100 poaching cases.

Compared to the situation in the region during the second half of January, when the cold weather and the intense hunting at the lakes drove most of the geese south to the Bourgas wetlands, now the flocks are concentrated again in their traditional wintering grounds around Shabla and Durankulak. Since the beginning of February, when the hunting season ended, the birds are less restless and enjoy greater peace when grazing around and roosting on the lakes. The Red-breasted geese have already started to form pure flocks and now we have about two weeks more to enjoy these magnificent birds before they leave north to their breeding grounds.

 

 

Red-breasted geese by Dimiter Georgiev

JANUARY CAME WITH BIGGER NUMBER OF REDBREASTS

On January 2, 2017 a joint team of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Neophron Tours carried out the scheduled monitoring of waterfowl in the northern Bulgarian Black Sea lakes Durankulak and Shabla, traditionally hosting almost the whole population of the Red-breasted Goose in winter.

During the survey we established 6’390  Red-breasted Geese and 16’400 Greater White-fronted Geese. We also watched 90 Graylag geese in Durankulak Lake. Compared with the survey which we conducted on December 17, 2016 the number of wintering geese in Coastal Dobrudzha has grown considerably, although it is still far from the numbers that accumulate here in the last 20-25 years. With the new cold spell coming this weekend, we expect even bigger numbers of geese at their traditional winter roosts.

In Durankulak again we found a small flock of White-headed ducks (this time 7 birds) – an extremely rare duck, with alarmingly decreasing numbers worldwide.

 

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THE RED-BREASTED GEESE HAVE ARRIVED

The cold spell in mid-December resulted in a big number of waterfowl coming from the north to the Bulgarian Black Sea coastal lakes Durankulak and Shabla.

On December 17, 2016 teams of the Wildlife Conservation Society visited the lakes to monitor the waterfowl, especially the numbers of the Red-breasted Goose, which is one of the rarest and highly vulnerable species of birds wintering annually at the lakes.

During the study we established 2930 Red-breasted geese (about 95% of which at Durankulak Lake) and 630 White-fronted geese. We also observed 27 Graylag geese. All geese had spent the night roosting in the lakes. This is the first high number of Redbreasts for this winter.

We were also impressed by the large flocks of other wintering waterfowl in both lakes, and particularly in Durankulak, where we observed 11 300 Coots and 4300 birds of different species of ducks and grebes, including 2550 Pochards, 320 Red-crested Pochards, 120 Red-breasted Mergansers, 34 Smews, 390 Great Crested Grebes, 230 Black-necked Grebes and others. Among the waterfowl in the pond we found 7 White-headed ducks – an extremely rare duck, with alarmingly decreasing numbers worldwide. We also observed850 Pygmy Cormorants, another endangered species. This is a record number of Pygmy Cormorant registered in Durankulak at this time of year. In the morning, along with the geese 28 Whooper Swans and two Tundra Swans flew off the lake and spent the day feeding in the cereal crops nearby.

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OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION “THE WILDLIFE OF NORTHEASTERN BULGARIA”

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Bulgaria) presents “THE WILDLIFE OF NORTHEASTERN BULGARIA” – photo exhibition devoted to the birds, the rich diversity and natural beauty of this region, shown through the lens of talented photographers and environmentalists – Mladen Vasilev, Chavdar Nikolov, Victor Vasilev and Dimiter Georgiev.

The exhibition was opened on March 18, 2016 at the Photosynthesis Gallery, Varna, bul. “Knyaz Boris I” 64, where it will remain and can be seen until April 4.

The exhibition is organized in partnership with Photosynthesis and is the final event on the WCS project “Increasing the capacity of volunteers in Northeastern Bulgaria for the implementation of biological monitoring”, which is funded under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009 – 2014 .

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THE RED-BREASTED GEESE IN NORTHEASTERN BULGARIA: update

23 January 2016

The Red-breasted Geese maintain steady numbers in their traditional wintering grounds in NE Bulgaria. During the goose monitoring on January 23, 2016, carried out by a team of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Neophron Tours, we established 24 430 Red-breasted Geese, of which 12 760 had roosted in Durankulak Lake and 11 760 – in Shabla lake. This is the highest number of Red-breasts recorded in the last three winter seasons in the area of the two lakes. Some 56 990 White-fronted Geese were also counted during the census. These high numbers followed a cold spell in northeastern Bulgaria prior to the count. Most of the geese were grazing in the winter crop fields not far from the two lakes providing very good conditions for field observations.

The two lakes currently host large numbers of other water birds, including Whooper Swans, Tundra Swans, Common Pochards, Red-crested Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Goldeneyes, Smew, Black-necked Grebes, Pallas’s Gulls, Caspian Gulls, Common Gulls, Great Bittern, etc.

The numbers of raptors in the area of the two lakes has also increased, following the cold spell. During the count we recorded about 30 Rough-legged Buzzards, 2 Long-legged Buzzards and more than 100 Common Buzzards, plus 5 White-tailed Eagles, 55 Marsh harriers, 18 Hen Harriers and 3 Merlins.

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SUMMING-UP OF THE 2015 FIELD SURVEY OF THE BREEDING BIOLOGY AND MORPHOLOGY OF THE SEMI-COLLARED FLYCTACHER

By Johan Träff
This year (2015) the field research season lasted from March 20 to mid-June. During this period 220 nest-boxes allocated in five plots were used in the Goritsa Forest area in the region of Varna. The results are as follows:

  • Nestboxes – 218 boxes were used during the season (during the winter 12 had disappeared but they were replaced with new ones before the breeding started – Another two (empty) boxes disappeared during the season).

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THE COLD SPELL BROUGHT THE REDBREASTED GEESE TO THEIR TRADITIONAL WINTERING GROUNDS

After the unusually warm weather at the end of 2015, the cold spells finally reached Bulgaria with the New Year. A large number of waterfowl and other birds arrived from the north to find refuge in the northern Bulgarian Black Sea lakes Durankulak and Shabla.

During the bird census carried out by a team of the Wildlife Conservation Society on January 2, 2016, we established 6980 Red-breasted Geese (of which 5830 in Durankulak and 1150 in Shabla lake) and 2025 White-fronted geese ( 1205 in the Shabla lakes and 820 in Durankulak). We also observed 11 Greylag geese, traditionally wintering in small numbers in the two lakes. All of the observed geese had roosted on the lakes.

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