Another Monday, another goose. Today I ventured into the far western reaches of Middlesex County where the last couple of days a Barnacle Goose (another visitor, like like last week's Pink-footed Goose, from Greenland) was seen in a huge corn stubble field. I couldn't go yesterday because we were doing the Island Beach Christmas Count, so I heaved myself out of bed this morning and set off to find the bird, not relishing looking through a couple of thousand Canada Geese to find it.
I could almost predict who else would be there when I arrived and two of them were (Bob & Deirdre). The third showed up later. Happily, everyone there had the bird and I got a glimpse of it walking away in the scope of a birder from Missouri. Missouri. This guy and his wife had driven out from Missouri to see the Pink-footed Goose and the Barnacle Goose was their bonus. This afternoon I tried a little thought experiment with Shari: what rare bird would we drive to Missouri to see? We couldn't come up with one. I said to my friends there that this field was 30 miles from where I lived and I had to really think this morning if I wanted to make the drive.
(The Missouri birder was given good instructions by us as to where to find the Pink-footed in Wall Township and I happen to know he was successful, because I spoke to another my birder friends this morning as he was looking at the Pink-footed and he told me he'd made the acquaintance of the Missouri couple who had already ticked the bird on their life list.)
While scanning through the flock geese which extended at least a quarter of mile waiting for the BAGO to reappear, Deirdre looked for Cackling Geese, the recently separated species of goose, once considered a sub-species of Canada (studying sub-species of geese can by dizzying). She found a couple of candidates. I found a candidate. But, determining what is and isn't a Cackling Goose (is it really small enough? is its bill stubby enough? Is the shape of the head correct?) can sometimes be way too subjective for me, so, like Western Sandpiper, unless I'm right on top of the bird and it is extremely obvious as to i.d., I won't call the bird. Too bad, because it would be another year bird.
I wasn't happy with the brief look I got. I could count it, but it would be a technicality. Deirdre and her friend left and then came back about 15 minutes later to tell us that we could see the bird from a different perspective down the road in the parking lot of the firehouse. I packed up and drove down there, set up my scope and still couldn't find it. Deirdre pulled up in her car and told me to behind the firehouse, that another guy had the bird. Deirdre did everything but take me by the shoulders and position me to find the bird. I scurried around the back of the firehouse, squeezing between the corner of the building and a hurricane fence and got my tripod legs stuck in the wire. It was really wedge in tightly. As I managed to extricate it, I popped off the rubber tip on one of the legs which flew into a coil of fire hose beyond my reach. That will cost over $17 to replace.
But I got the bird! I saw it in my fellow birder's scope, black breast, white flanks, barring on the back, white patch on the face. It fairly shone amongst the Canada Geese. Then I put it in my scope. Somehow, you haven't seen the bird until you see it in your scope. Satisfied, I shouldered my scope and headed out to Assunpink to do some real birding and get a walk in.