In the mid-February it took place the last for the season international synchronized count of the wintering geese along the Western Black Sea coast. The experts and volunteers of the project Life for Safe Flight visited the most important Red-breasted Goose wetlands in the region in Romania and Bulgaria.
As usually in the last few years the highest number of Red-breasted Geese was found in Romania – 14,611 individuals, concentrated in just two wetlands complexes – the Danube lakes along the border with Bulgaria and the islands complex of Braila. In the case of Braila, the geese arrived in mid-December in numbers above 10,000 and remained there until this count. Small numbers were found also in the traditional wintering areas along the Danube Delta and Razim-Sinoe lagoon complex.
photos: Emil Todorov
Due to the bad weather at the beginning of February, the geese were absent in almost all inland wetlands in SE Romania, where the lakes were frozen and the foraging grounds were under snow. During the monitoring, more than 350,000 Greater White-fronted Geese were observed in Romania. Comparing with the data from the February, 2022 when in Romania was registered the highest number of Red-breasted Geese in the last 10 years, almost 24,000 individuals now the numbers were almost halved, most likely due to the very warm winter.
Unfortunately, the hunting activity was significant, most likely due to the end of the hunting season. There were several sites where the hunters were seen to shot practically in very poor visibility conditions which is not allowing to identify correctly the goose species.
photo: Emil Todorov
In Bulgaria, the number of Red-breasted Geese was significantly lower than in Romania – about 800 individuals. However, it is the highest for the country for the entire winter season 2022-2023. The species was registered in all three most important regions for wintering geese in Bulgaria – about 600 individuals in the area of Durankulak Lake, 150 individuals in the area of the Burgas wetlands and 73 individuals in the area of Svishtov-Belene Lowlands.
A significant part of the Red-breasted Geese appeared literally 2-3 days before the monitoring was carried out, and their movement to the country was determined by the colder weather in the region at the beginning of the February and the heavy snowfall in Romania, which is a precondition for the migration of the birds to the south. With the weather warming up in the last few days, their numbers have drastically decreased again. The period of presence of the majority of the RBG in Bulgaria was only 5-7 days.
photo: Mihail Iliev
Regarding the other numerous species, the Greater White-fronted Goose, seasonal maximum was also recorded in Coastal Dobrudzha (~4,500 ind.) and Burgas wetlands (~5,500 ind.). Over 30,000 White-fronted Geese were observed in the Svishtov-Belene Lowland area. What is interesting about this case is that the birds resided entirely on the largest Danube island, Persin, in whose marshes the geese spent the nights, while foraging during the days in neighboring agricultural lands. This is a rarely observed behavior – usually the geese in the Belene region roost in Lake Suhaia in Romania and fly tens of kilometers south daily to the foraging fields, located south of the town of Belene.Due to the military conflict in Ukraine, no monitoring was conducted throughout the winter season. The most important region for wintering geese in the country – the Kherson region has been annexed by Russia and fighting is currently taking place there. It is very likely that a large proportion of the global population of Red-breasted Geese is in certain areas of southern Ukraine and southern Russia (Rostov region, Kalmykia), but this statement cannot be supported by actual data from field activities.
The monitoring of Red-breasted Geese is carried out within the framework of the “LIFE for Safe Flight“ project.