BirdsRussia and GSDSG partnership

BirdsRussia and GSDSG partnership

BirdsRussia and Goose, Swan and Duck Study Group of the Northern  Eurasia (GSDSG) are long-term partners. GSDSG is one of the oldest environmental public organizations in Russia created after breakup of the USSR. It was officially registered in 1996 and celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2019. GSDSG studies, conserves and develops scientific basis for sustainable use of resources of geese.

Both of these organisations have a lot in common and support each other. BirdsRussia delegates to GSDSG all the projects and tasks connected with anseriformes that fall into the organisation's sphere of activity. GSDSG curates the topics of conservation of Russia's iconic rare anseriformes species such as Bewick's swan, Lesser white-fronted goose, Red-breasted goose, Taiga Bean goose, Guinea goose and others. BirdsRussia supports these projects and participates in them. GSDSG informs BirdsRussia on its work and provides necessary materials on anseriformes for larger scale projects carried out by BirdsRussia as well as documents and information materials which are passed by BirdsRussia to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and international organizations. BirdsRussia and GSDSG support each other organizationally and financially. GSDSG coordinates and mainly carries out cooperation of both organizations with the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) and American and Japanese colleagues under bilateral intergovernmental agreements.

GSDSG publishes an annual bulletin called "Casarca" (Barnacle), chief editor A.B.Popovkina, with more than 20 issues. Once every five years GSDSG organizes international conferences on anseriformes, attended by up to 200 people from Russia and countries connected to it by migratory paths. These meetings form a direction for research and conservation of anseriformes of Russia and serve as a platform for communication of experts.

BirdsRussia and GSDSG interaction under the cooperation and mutual assistance agreement is an example of how two NGOs can work helping each other and, as a result, significantly increase cumulative conservation effect. The main GSDSG achievements in the last decade are described below, for more information visit GSDSG website:


In such a large country as Russia, it is impossible to count birds and give a spatial estimation of influencing factors without using small aircraft. In order to fill the gap in this area, under the supervision of S.B. Rozenfeld, GSDSG together with the Institute of Ecology and Evolution of Russian Academy of Sciences started to carry out large-scale aerial survey work in Western Siberia, Kalmykia, Rostov and Stavropol regions, Nenets Autonomous Okrug and Arkhangelsk region since 2010. In 2016 GSDSG purchased a plane designed specifically for studying waterfowl by G.V. Kirtaev and expands the areas of research every year. In 2018 aerial survey of Krasnoyarsk region and Yakutia started. BirdsRussia assists GSDSG with organization and financing of this work. The research was on the largest scale in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug where autumn migration has been monitored since 2010 as well as spring one since 2013 along with summer population counts and distribution analysis of all waterfowl species. The aerial count method was developed and continues to be improved, received data on population dynamics was analysed, a database is being created, and corresponding recommendations on hunting regulation were submitted. Since 2015, the practices of YNAO were adopted by NAO, where annual waterfowl monitoring is conducted during autumn migration. After a 30-year break an estimation was given to population, its trends and reproduction success for 24 anseriformes species. New data was received on migration dynamics, reproduction success, spatial distribution and limiting factors. We are planning to carry out similar work in tundras of north-east Asia with support of US FWS in the coming years.


Since 2002 GSDSG carries out autumn, spring and winter counts of Red-breasted barnacle and Lesser white-fronted goose on the Manych. Since 2007 autumn and spring monitoring has been conducted on a regular basis in Northern Kazakhstan. It allowed to correct the world population numbers, determine the most important stop-over and wintering areas, key sites of bird concentration. The results of counts and research of biotopical distribution of rare and game goose species served as a basis for recommendations to protect geese migration stop-over sites in three administrative regions of the Republic of Kalmykia and later for the development of hunting restriction measures in the Southern Federal District.

In 2011 by the decree of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Republic of Kalmykia temporary moving no-take zones of 1000 ha each were set up on the hunting grounds of each of these three regions and regular monitoring of geese movement and distribution was organized in order to timely relocate no-take zones to the areas of rare species concentration. "Manych-Gudilo" federal reserve was created in 2010 in Dunda river delta, a unique wetland complex in Stavropol krai. GSDSG identified key territories within Northern Kazakhstan migration stop-over and developed a unique method that includes a survey of all the concentration sites of migrating birds, population counts and estimation of age composition, migration dynamics analysis and the length of the stops, evaluation of water reservoir state and the threat spectrum. 27 red-breasted barnacles were tagged with GSM transmitters in the nesting sites on north-eastern Gyda peninsula, south-western Taymyr and Yamal in 2012-2014. We received new data on the molt period, nesting ecology, loyalty to nesting sites, behaviour, relationship with protecting peregrine falcons, duration and geography of autumn and spring migrations, new stop-over and wintering sites. Key migratory stop-over areas were identified to direct conservation efforts there. Since 2012 to identify the borders of key stop-over sites for migratory birds and the duration of flight we have used data received from birds tagged with satellite and GSM transmitters. Combination of these methods allows to get precise data on the structure as well as the dynamics of migrating clusters of geese and barnacles. Due to results of tagging, new stop-over sites were identified and monitoring geography was significantly expanded. Following our recommendations, in the key sites for Red-breasted barnacle and Lesser white-fronted goose in YNAO eight seasonal game reserves (no-take zones) have been created, two more are planned, autumn hunting ban has been introduced until August 28. In NAO four regional reserves have been created to protect waterfowl. The obtained data is used to improve protection status of species, add and correct the data received at the nesting and wintering sites and to introduce several practical measures for conservation and sustainable use of geese and barnacles within the whole flyway.

Red-breasted geese in Dvuobje. Photo by S.B. Rozenfeld


The Taiga Bean Goose is a rare, sporadically distributed subspecies whose population has been declining catastrophically fast since the 1960s. More than 50% of the Taiga Bean Goose world population migrates, stops and breeds in YNAO. The region has a large share of the responsibility for this subspecies. That said, there are no protected areas for the conservation of the Taiga Bean geese in any region where their breeding and wintering sites or their migration paths are located. We presumed that Yamal taiga bean goose are part of East-Asian subpopulation on which there is almost no data.  The features and locations of molt, spring and autumn flight are also unknown. Since 2014 more than 1000 km of taiga rivers were surveyed and more than 50 hatches were found. We managed to tag 9 adult birds with transmitters. All the birds flew to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China to winter. Suggestions on conservation of the Taiga Bean Goose in YNAO were prepared based on the received data. "Sinsko-Voykarsky" reserve of regional importance was created in 2017; the area of "Sobty-Yougansky" reserve of regional importance was expanded specifically for the Taiga Bean goose conservation, two new no-take zones "Pyakolskaya" and "Pitlyarskaya" were designed. The Taiga Bean goose was listed in the YNAO Red Book in December 2018. Now it is necessary to define priorities for the Taiga Bean Goose conservation not only in YNAO but also in the stop-over and wintering sites: Altai Krai, Kazakhstan and China. To understand the borders of western subpopulation of the taiga Bean Goose, 16 birds were tagged during wintering in the Lower Oder Valley national park (Germany) in November 2018. The results of remote tracing showed that birds wintering in Germany nest to the west of Ural mountains, as well as in the western part of YMAO and KhMAO-Yugra. The results of this project allowed us to develop the basis to include the Taiga Bean goose in the Red Book of Arkhangelsk region. In 2018 we also started a project to estimate the number of the Taiga Bean goose on Olonets spring stop-over of geese and barnacles, the harvest level of these birds during spring hunting period and conservation prospects. 


Nowadays, the number of Bewick's swans traditionally wintering on the coast of the North sea has declined. The reason for the dramatic and continuing decrease of this number is still not fully known. At the same time, the number of swans wintering along the coast of the Mediterranean sea in Greece has increased sharply. Are the wintering sites moving from the coast of the North sea to the Mediterranean? Where do Bewick's swans, wintering in Greece, nest? Is there a strict border between the ranges of Bewick's swan western population and the eastern one wintering in China, Japan and Korea or is there an exchange of individuals between these populations? So as to answer these questions tagging has been organized in 5 key sites in YNAO and NAO since 2015. 143 swans were ringed in total, 57 of which were tagged with transmitters. It turned out that the birds tagged in the same site on the same day are divided by more than 8200 km during wintering — that is the distance between two groups of swans from Yamal wintering in China and Greece. In addition, previously unknown paths to wintering sites were found that go through South Kazakhstan region and Uzbekistan where Bewick's swan is considered a rare bird of passage. We have also managed to prove that birds breeding on Yamal winter in the Evros river delta. None of the tagged birds flew to the wintering sites on the coast of the North sea, i.e. they do not belong to the vulnerable North European population. Yamal birds are part of the Asian population, whose status does not raise concerns and does not require the introduction of special conservation measures. Moreover, we supposed that a part of the birds molting in NAO is of Asian origin and Asian birds have already reached the centre of the North European population range in their expansion to the east. Data received in 2019 on the swans tagged in NAO confirmed this hypothesis: Bewick's swan passed the Ural mountains in its expansion to the west.

Yamal Bewick's swans flyways.


Nowadays creation of a protected area is a very laborious process. Waterfowl birds are a difficult object for conservation as they travel widely, besides their movements are not regular and depend on a number of factors. It was shown by the example of arid regions of Kalmykia and neighbouring regions as well as wide floodplains of lower Ob. In both cases the level of habitat watering changes radically depending on the year conditions and with it bird distribution also changes. The results of aerial surveys showed ineffectiveness of existing protected areas for the conservation of Lesser White-fronted goose and Red-breasted Barnacle during the migration period. That is why the most effective method of territorial waterfowl protection is the creation of no-take zones during hunting period. In 2011 the first attempt to create temporary no-take zones was made by B.I. Ubushaev and S.B. Rozenfeld in the Republic of Kalmykia: creation of moving no-take zones in three administrative districts of 1000 ha each. The zones were set up by moving the signs depending on where clusters of rare species were discovered. However, this method is effective at a smaller territory with a developed road network and possibility of constant daily monitoring. In YNAO this scheme is not useful. That is why by the governor's decree on the key areas that we suggested based on the aerial surveys eight temporary no-take zones were created that are active during spring hunting and have fixed borders. Information on the no-take zones is posted in the YNAO government website in the "Information for hunters" section.



Wrangel Island is the only existing in Asia nesting ground of Lesser Snow goose, once numerous species distributed from the area to the west of Chukotka to the Lena river delta. After the loss of Asian wintering sites of this species by the middle of the 20th century in Russia there is only one colony on Wrangel island left wintering in the North America. Monitoring of this colony and the longest project on the individual goose tagging in the world started by E.V. Syroechkovsky has been conducted since 1970. For more than 40 years Lesser Snow goose has been a flagman species for the nature conservation cooperation of Russia and the USA on birds. In the beginning of the 2010s the situation became critical and the unique range of high-quality observations of many years could be interrupted. GSDSG came to rescue and as a result of lengthy diplomatic, organizational and fund-raising work the international project was saved. Now it is carried out as partnership of GSDSG, US Fish and Wildlife service and "Wrangel Island" state reserve (coordinator — GSDSG member — V.V. Baranyuk). The number of geese on the island restored after a 60-year depression, increased by ten folds, now reached half a million of birds and continues to grow. There is hope that new Lesser Snow goose colonies can appear on the Chukotka coast and it will be the start of the restoration of the Asian population of the species, including wintering in Japan, Korea and China. And the inhabitants of Asian regions of Russia will get access to the new numerous hunting resource. Annual ecological and population studies continue to be carried out at the largest in Russia geese colony.


Catch and tagging of Bewick's swans at Baydaratskaya Bay. Photo by D.O. Zamyatin

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