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Distribution and abundance of geese during autumn migration and wintering in the years 1991-1997 Rozmieszczenie i liczebnosc gesi w Polsce podczas jesiennej migracji i zimowania w latach 1991-1997



Distribution and abundance of geese during autumn migration and wintering in the years 1991-1997 Rozmieszczenie i liczebnosc gesi w Polsce podczas jesiennej migracji i zimowania w latach 1991-1997



Notatki Ornitologiczne, 421: 15-35



Each year in the period from 1991 to 1997, country-wide censuses of geese were undertaken in mid-November and mid-January. The total number of geese recorded in November ranged from 99 591 inds in 1993 to 251 127inds in 1997, the January numbers varying from 1 146 inds during the severe winter of 1996 to 103 009 inds in the mild 1994 winter season (Tables 1-8). The most abundant species was the Bean Goose Anser fabalis, which constituted, on average, 74% of all identified birds in autumn and 88% in winter. The White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons represented respectively 24% and 11% of the geese recorded, whereas the Greylag Goose Anser anser averaged 2% in November and 0.4% in January. However, particular species were actually more abundant, especially taking into account the high proportion of unidentified geese Ansersp. Depending on the year, the total number of the Bean Goose occurring in Poland in mid-November was estimated at 90-240 thousand, the January assessment yielding 1.2-115 thousand; for the White-fronted Goose the estimates were respectively 25-80 thousand and 150 inds-15 thousand, and for the Greylag Goose 1700-4500 inds and 20-800 inds. In Poland, considerably greater numbers of geese were usually observed in November rather than January, but exceptionally in the 1993/94 season the situation was reverse (Fig. 5). Besides, one should consider that the November counts were carried out after the autumn peak in geese numbers which in Western Pomerania has recently been occurring on the turn of October. The abundance fluctuations in November probably resulted mainly from changes of migration routes that may have been governed by the shortage of food resources in vast areas, changing climatic conditions and breeding success. The numbrs of wintering birds are clearly dependent on the severity of winter (Fig. 3, 4). In the study period geese were observed at 213 sites (Fig. 1 ). The decided majority of birds were found in western Poland: 97% in autumn and 99% in winter. These records concerned mainly Western Pomerania, the regions of Ziemia Lubuska and Wielkopolska, and Silesia (Fig. 2). The importance of Western Pomerania clearly declined, especially in autumn: in 1991 the total number of geese equalled 54% to drop to 4% in 1996. On the other hand, numbers increased inland, particularly in Silesia: an increase from 8% in 1991 to 42% in 1996. In January 1997 a joint number of 32 755 inds were observed inland, which constituted 52% of the grand total for Poland (compared with only 5 in January 1992). These changes are most likely to be linked with the change in migration routes both along the northern flyway (the geese which winter on the European coasts began to pass Pomeranial and the inland one (more geese migrate across Poland up-continent). The most important area of geese occurrence in Poland, and also one of the most important Europe, was the lower Odra valley section from the region of the Warta River opening to the Zalew Kamienski bay (Fig. 1). The number of geese concentrating in this area during the peak of autumn passage was roughly estimated at over 220 000 birds in total, at cat 00 000 (mainly the Bean Geese) during mild winters and at ca 1000 during very severe ones.

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