Migration has been fascinating us for ages. While in the Middle Ages the disappearance of birds in certain seasons was thought to result from transformation (‘Barnacle’ geese hid in clams during summer) or birds hiding underwater, the first expeditions to the Arctic showed us otherwise. In the late 16th century, Willem Barentz was the first to find that geese and many other species of bird are breeding far up North, and visit Western Europe only in winter times. This not just answered the issue where birds went during summer, but also raised many new questions: How do birds deal with this cold climate? How do birds navigate? How do they know when to arrive or leave?
Our climate is changing, and one of the vital themes in ecology is whether and how organisms can adapt to this. Especially the Arctic is facing rapid changes, and its inhabitants have to keep up. Migrating birds might seem the most flexible organisms, but as differences between their winter and summer homes become bigger, they might be the least able to adjust their timing.
Can Arctic-nesting migrants adapt to a changing climate, and how? This is the question we aim to answer in this project. We follow a long-distance migrant, the Barnacle Goose, along it’s annual journey. This takes us from the Dutch fields where the geese forage in winter, along the Baltic where they refuel during spring, all the way to Arctic Russia where the geese nest in summer. A fascinating journey along a gradient of change. We follow the geese to a breeding colony next to the abandoned village of Tobseda, on the coast of the Barentz Sea.
On this website you can follow our research, in which we follow the geese along their migratory route.
The project ‘Arctic Barnies’ runs from 2013 – 2017 by researchers from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and Dutch centre for Avian Migration (Vogeltrekstation). It is funded by the NWO Dutch Polar Programme.