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Dark-bellied brent geese flying over saltmarsh and water

Brent geese migration to Arctic Siberia is now well underway. Find out more about their amazing journey.

In the last few weeks there has been a very noticeable decline in the numbers of our star goose, the dark-bellied brent goose, around the Solent shores. Why is this you ask? Where have our cackling chattering companions of the winter gone?

The answer is the geese are starting their migration back to the Taymyr peninsula in Arctic Siberia, covering a spectacular 3,000 miles as they go.

The whole migration process is a complicated one… Before setting off for migration, large groups of geese flock to areas known as staging grounds to prepare for their long journey. They tend to migrate in family groups – sticking together year on year – with different family groups beginning their migration at different times. An eager few will depart in late February, but the majority will be setting off throughout March. By the middle of April most will have left.

The geese use a network of staging grounds along the length of the migratory route between the Solent and Siberia. These staging grounds are vital as they provide vital food and hydration; the geese would not be able to accumulate enough calories to perform the journey in one go. Their route will take them from the Solent to North Kent or Norfolk, before heading over to Germany and Denmark. They then cross the Gulf of Finland to continue along the Arctic coast of Russia. Different groups will stop at their own staging grounds, continually “leapfrogging” each other as they go.

Flocks travel mostly at night. Each day, they search for marshland, coastal grassland or farmland to rest and feed on, before pushing on at dusk. In places where the grazing is good they may linger for up to a week at a time. They finally reaching the Arctic in early June, just as the snow and ice is beginning to thaw.

For all their effort, the geese will have just two months to breed and raise their young before beginning their epic migration back to the Solent coastline in August.

If you happen to see a flock of geese flying across the evening sky, spare a thought for them all… Consider the 6,000 miles they fly each year, and then try to leave them to relax when they get back to the Solent for a feed this winter.