As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Where did 50,000 'lost geese' go?

Researchers fit satellite tags to unlock secrets of ‘lost' geese
February 2013. Researchers in Bulgaria have taken the largest ever catch of Endangered red-breasted geese and fitted satellite tracking devices in a bid to unlock one of the biggest mysteries of the natural world.
red-breasted goose (Wikipedia)
Just over ten years ago, more than 50,000 of the small, brightly coloured geese seemingly disappeared from their wintering grounds along the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.

Relocated or exterminated?
Coordinated international counts have not since recorded a significant increase, leaving scientists speculating whether the missing geese - half the world population - have relocated to unknown sites in southwest Asia or fallen foul of hunting, development and changes in farming.

Teams from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) caught 91 red-breasted geese and fitted 11 tags to follow the birds' individual movements along their 6,000 km migration to breeding grounds in Arctic Russia.

But conservationists working to save the red-breasted goose are being realistic about the chances of rediscovering the ‘lost' population. The data gathered will also help conservationists work with farmers, planners and developers in Bulgaria.
Peter Cranswick, Head of Species Recovery at WWT, has been at the heart of the international effort to catch and tag the geese. He said:

50% of the world's population disappeared
"Almost overnight, we were unable to account for around half the world's red-breasted geese. The reasons are still unclear and we are tracking these individual birds to find out more.

"The data we get will be invaluable to our work with local communities in Bulgaria - the farmers, shooters and landowners - to work out how we support the remaining geese, while still meeting their needs. It is also possible that, as the climate has changed, some birds have started to winter further east. We hope our tagged birds will reveal as yet unknown sites, so we can assess their importance and - if necessary - ensure their protection."

The project ‘Safe Ground for Redbreasts' is funded the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community.

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