Saturday, November 19, 2016

Etra Lake 11/19--Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose, Etra Lake
Sometimes I look back a year in my eBird lists to see where I was birding this time of the season. A year ago yesterday found me at Etra Lake in Mercer County where there was some excitement about a putative Barnacle Goose that turned out to be a hybrid (pfeh), but it did remind me that Etra Lake does attract rare geese and has the added benefit of not having to avoid hunters.  So this morning, fairly early, I drove up there, arriving around 7:45; not early enough, apparently, because instead of the hundreds of geese I was expecting to sort through, there were only about 20 on the water. You really have to get there early, just after sunrise, to catch the geese before they take off for the nearby corn fields. There were 4 species of ducks to look at and a Belted Kingfisher. Then I took a walk along the soccer fields, through the farm field and back around the arboretum, where I was very happy to find a Winter Wren, a really tough bird for me to track down and only the 2nd one I've seen this year.

As I was walking back I swung over to a peninsula that sticks out into the middle of the lake to see if any other ducks were in sight. Some Canada Geese started to fly in (I'd tallied around 60 up to the point; some on the lake, but most in the air). They were honking but in the arrhythmic honks I hear a squeaky squealing call that I didn't recognize. Looking up I saw for a moment the orange bill and white face of Greater White-fronted Goose. The bird was descending onto the lake and after I found a clear space in the brush I quickly relocated it.

Sibley says, "Most birders who find rare birds are looking for rare birds." I've always been ambivalent about this statement. True, I've found rare birds, and in a sense, I'm always looking for them, but the exciting rarities that I've found have always been surprises. This is one of the few times when I actually went looking (as opposed to chasing) for a rare bird, knowing that the location had a history of interesting waterfowl. I did feel a certain sense of accomplishment.

I then went to Assunpink (where the hunters seemed shoulder to shoulder) and found little of note (absolutely no waterfowl on Assunpink Lake) and then took a walk along the  northern section of the Union Transportation Trail where the most interesting bird was a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

My walk around Etra Lake Park & Arboretum yielded the following 23 species:
Greater White-fronted Goose  1     
Canada Goose  250     Big flock flew onto lake around 9:30 with GWFG among them
American Black Duck  25
Mallard  20
Green-winged Teal  3
Hooded Merganser  5
Great Blue Heron  2
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Blue Jay  15
Fish Crow  2
Carolina Chickadee  2     Heard
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Winter Wren  1
Carolina Wren  6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  20
European Starling  1
Dark-eyed Junco  10
White-throated Sparrow  15
Song Sparrow  2
American Goldfinch  2     Heard

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