Geese on Tour

Winter holidays on the Lower Rhine? Who would do that?

In fact, around 150,000 visitors specifically plump for the Lower Rhine winter climate every year, and not just that:  they actually appreciate it so much that they travel up to 6,000 kilometres to get here, obviously without any technical transport aids. They are mainly white-fronted geese, but other Arctic wild geese, such as bean geese and barnacle geese, also undertake this strenuous journey twice a year. They fly back and forth between their breeding areas in northern Scandinavia and Siberia and their winter quarters here on the Lower Rhine. What makes the Lower Rhine so attractive to them? Seen through a goose's eyes, it's very comfortable here in the winter. In the breeding areas it is also just about between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius in the summer. And the goose family feels so much at home in this climate that it breeds and rears its chicks there. Then it somehow makes sense that geese like the Lower Rhine in the winter, too. The weather is good - when you compare it to the Siberian winter - and there is plenty to eat. Researchers still haven't completely discovered how the geese find their way here and manage the exhausting journey. Some geese therefore now wear small transmitters, others are marked with coloured neck rings with a numerical and letter code so that the flight routes and life stages of individual animals can be understood. However, this observation must be done very carefully. The shy birds are highly sensitive to disruption, and any unnecessary flying up into the air costs precious energy - because only well-fed geese with sufficient fat reserves will subsequently manage the flight back home. Even without being disturbed, the birds graze for approximately eight to ten hours a day; if they have to fly up into the air frequently, they need more food. It's good, then,  that the meadows and fields in the Lower Rhine cultivated landscape provide them with the ideal conditions for this - and even better that it has thus been classified as an EU Bird Protection Area. So this is another good reason  for the wild geese to fly here rather than anywhere else. Because the geese winter here without being disturbed, those of us who have stayed at home and not fled to Tenerife can watch the fascinating activities of the geese between November and the end of February - if they keep sufficient distance. For example, how they fly in to the meadows and pastures calling loudly or, in the evenings, to the waters where they sleep.

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