Saturday, January 16, 2016

Monroe 1/16--Barnacle Goose, Cackling Goose

Barnacle Goose, in the middle of the flock
Wild goose chase today. Two-thirds successful.

I started the day up at Etra Lake, hoping for the Greater White-fronted Goose that has been there the last few days, but by the time I got there, not too many geese were left on the lake. Nothing more disheartening that seeing geese flying away as you're pulling up. I also planned to drive up to Monroe Township, hoping for an even better rarity, but first I decided I may as well see what Etra Lake Park had to offer. With the exception of a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow and a nice little flock of Field Sparrows mixed in with juncos, not much.

After making the loop I was heading back to the parking lot when I ran into my buddy Bob Auster who'd also come to look for the GWFG. He threw a monkey wrench into my plans, since he'd just come from the ponds up in Monroe and they were empty.

So he & I birded around Etra Lake Park again, and again, didn't turn up much. We decided to brave the hunters at Assunpink and spent a couple of hours there. Bob got the White-crowned Sparrows that frequent the farm driveway on Imlaystown Road for his year list, and beyond that, the place was very quiet.

By this time it was about one-thirty. We'd heard that the geese return to the ponds in the corporate park in the afternoon, so we decided to make a run up there anyway. The ponds are just retention basins in a huge corporate park. We scanned the first one, which had about 200 Canada Geese on it and saw nothing we wanted. We drove about 1/4 mile down the road, looked through about 100 more geese and still came up with nothing. Bob suggested bouncing back and forth, since the geese continued to arrive so we returned to the first pond. I started on one end, Bob on the other and within in a minute he'd found the Barnacle Goose we were looking for. And since it was associating with a couple of obvious hybrid geese, we knew we had a "clean" one, unlike the goose I had to take off my list last year from Etra Lake.

A couple of birders pulled up and we got them on the Barnacle Goose; it was a lifer for both of them so they were thrilled.

Bob sees a lot of Cackling Geese up in his home county of Somerset and comfortable identifying them so I set him the challenge of finding me one. It took a little looking, but he found one very obvious goose that was good for Cackling. Unfortunately, by the time I found it in my camera lens, it had tucked its head into its feathers and a photo would have been useless. This is a tough bird for me. I though I had one last week at Prospertown Lake, but upon further review, it turned out to just a "lesser" sub-species of a Canada.

Barnacle Goose makes it as Bird of the Day. With luck, I'll find another Cackling Goose while I'm still in the game.
Barnacle Goose with hybrid behind it.

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