Project

Spring stopover of geese in the Biebrza Basin, NE Poland

Goal: Influence of various factors on the spring stopover and migration of geese.

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Michał Polakowski
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Greenland White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons flavirostris have been recorded in Poland twice, during spring migration of 2012 and 2020 in the Biebrza Basin (NE Poland). During the first observation a single adult was recorded, while in 2020 two second-year individuals were found. These are the only records of this subspecies in Poland, which have been accepted by the Polish Avifaunistic Commission. The Greenland White-fronted Geese are rarely seen in Western and Northern Europe (except for their regular wintering range) and further east records are even scarcer. It is probable that individuals from the Greenland subspecies, which move beyond their regular range, rarely join flocks of the nominate form and migrate eastwards in spring, reaching Central and Eastern Europe. The field identification of the Greenland White-fronted Geese is summarized and discussed.
Michał Polakowski
added a research item
Changes in the management and productivity of farmland affect foraging behaviour in migrating birds. Crops are increasingly being damaged (and farmers are sustaining ever greater economic losses) as a result of large flocks of waterfowl feeding on them. To investigate the differences in the time budget shared between natural grasslands and arable lands, migrating Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons) were filmed using digiscoping equipment at a spring stopover site. Four types of activity were noted in connection with habitat types, bird age, position in the flock and flock size. Foraging was the most common activity in both habitats, but was more common in the grasslands than on arable land. The mean times spent on vigilance, resting and other activities were also significantly different between the two habitat types. GLM analysis showed that young birds spent more time foraging than adults but revealed no differences in foraging times between the age categories in grasslands and arable land. In the latter, geese were more vigilant at the edge of a flock and rested more frequently in its centre. No such differences were found in the grasslands. Only resting time was adversely affected by flock size. These findings, which demonstrate that White-fronted Geese are flexible in their use of food resources, could be useful in agricultural management planning in the light of increasing conflicts with farmers.
Michał Polakowski
added a research item
Among Arctic-breeding waterfowl species, spring stopovers are critical to individuals as a means to accumulate fat and nutrient stores to invest in both migration and their breeding attempt in the tundra zone. We studied the influence of possible factors (age, sex, progress of migration season) on the stopover duration of one such species, the Eurasian Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons albifrons), by analysing records of 1,115 neck-banded birds spotted at their Biebrza Basin stopover site on spring migration in Po-land. As expected, because most mature birds are paired, there were no differences between the sexes in stopover duration. Generally, adults stayed for shorter periods than immatures and stopover duration was shorter later in the season. Data from individuals of known age showed that the rate of decrease in stopover duration with season was faster among older than younger geese. Immature birds, still not ready to breed, do not face the pressure to attain breeding condition and therefore may stay longer in the stopover areas. We think these patterns may reflect the greater experience of older birds, as well as the stronger pressure on them to reach the breeding grounds as early as possible. As the breeding season approaches and foraging opportunities at migration sites further up the fly-way become more accessible and of higher quality, geese stay for shorter periods later in the season.
Michał Polakowski
added a research item
Many birds are advancing their migratory phenology and arriving earlier at their spring staging areas in response to climate warming. The duration of the spring migration of geese depends on the interaction between feeding conditions and dates. We studied White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons and Bean Geese Anser fabalis staging at stopover sites in the Biebrza Basin (north-eastern Poland), one of the main stopover sites for geese in central Europe, which is situated in one of the coldest parts of the Polish lowlands. White-fronted Goose and Bean Goose first arrival dates (FADs) were negatively related to local mean spring temperature in January-March during 1996-2015, but FADs of both species (median 28 February) neither differed nor advanced significantly during 1996-2015. Total numbers of birds in ten-day periods during 2008-2014 were also analysed. The stay duration of both goose species at the Biebrza stopover site (based on ten-day periods during 2008-2014) varied from 5 to 10 ten-day periods. Numbers of geese were positively correlated with local mean temperature and depended on ice cover: both these factors govern accessibility to water and foraging grounds. As spring approaches, feeding conditions improve because the plants the geese feed on start growing. We suggest that, given the area’s prevailing harsh weather conditions, temperature seems to be the crucial factor affecting the extent of ice cover as well as plant growth, which in turn affects goose migration phenology.
Michał Polakowski
added a research item
Climate conditions may determine the foraging strategy of migratory birds at spring stopovers. For geese, this period is a crucial time for acquiring energy to fuel onward migration and ensure future breeding success. Our study, analysing the influence of weather factors on numbers of geese and foraging sites, was conducted in the Biebrza Basin (north-eastern Poland) during the spring migration period in 2007–2013, when a total of 116 counts were carried out. A total of 741,865 White-fronted Geese and 20,871 Greylag Geese were counted. Numbers of geese differed among habitat types; Greylag Geese used arable lands more frequently than White- fronted Geese, which in turn preferred grasslands. Two climate factors affected numbers of the latter: the impact of mean 10-day temperature was positive but that of snowfall was negative. Neither of these factors affected the former. We conclude that changeable climate conditions in the temperate climatic zone may force a more flexible response in terms of habitat use during stopovers from short-distance migrants like Greylag Geese than from longer-distance migrants like White-fronted Geese.
Michał Polakowski
added 6 research items
Distribution, characteristics and conservation status of geese roosts in Poland. Abstract: In total, 106 roosts of geese were recordedin Polandin 2000–2011. Each place gatheredminimum 1 000 birds, mainly the Bean Goose Anser fabalis andGreater White-frontedGoose A. albifrons. The majority (83%) of roosts was placedin the western part of the country, mainly in the Wielkopolska (35), Silesia (24) andP omerania (22). Most of them gatheredup to 10 000 geese (56%). These gathering 10 000–30 000 inds were less numerous (37%). There were only eight roosts where the number of the geese regularly exceeded 30 000 birds. The two largest were the Kiszkowo ponds near Poznań (up to 85 000 inds) andW arta Mouth National Park (up to 120 000 inds). The roosts were situatedon backwaters and pools in the river valleys (31%), on lakes (26%) andfishpond s (22%). Most of the roosts functionedin spring. Those usedd uring autumn migration andin winter were less numerous. The roosts were usually located close to the appropriate resting places and feeding grounds in areas with milder climate conditions. 65% of roosts is protectedas a Special BirdProtection Areas Natura 2000. Occurrence of geese qualifies 29 birdareas of international importance in Poland(IBA). The available evidence indicates that new IBAs couldbe establishedat nine more reservoirs as qualifiedby the number of geese roosting. The major threats to geese roosting areas in Polandinvolve hunting andraising high objects, such as power lines andwindfarms in the areas adjacent to roosts. Minimization of such threats shouldbe included into the conservation plans for Natura 2000 areas that are crucial to geese.
INCREASE IN NUMBERS OF PINK-FOOTED GEESE, ANSER BRACHYRHYNCHUS IN NORTH-PODLASIAN LOWLAND (NE POLAND) IN 2007-2008 During many years Pink-footed Geese, Anser brachyrhynchus, were very rare vagrants in Poland. For the first time they were recorded in North Podlasian Lowland in 2002. After this date, a few single individuals were observed there, however most of Regional records were done in 2007-2008 (photo 1). It was the effect of an increase in numbers of breeding birds in Svalbard and in the population wintering in Western Europe, or in detectability of Pink-footed Geese, also in north-eastern Poland.
Michał Polakowski
added a project goal
Influence of various factors on the spring stopover and migration of geese.