Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Deer Head Lake 1/11--Ross's Goose

Ross's Goose
The last month or so I haven't really been in the mood to chase all over hell and gone looking for rare waterfowl. Just the idea of going to some out of the way field and sorting through hundreds of Canada Geese looking for the one rare bird fills me with ennui and my fingers cold numb with cold just thinking about it. So I was delighted to find a Ross's Goose today all by myself, in Ocean County, at a new spot for me.  And the weather was warm.

I strung together a number of places this morning in the Lacey/Forked River/Ocean Township area, starting at Bamber Lake where I found 64 Tundra Swans, apparently a high number according to eBird but I counted every one. I got most of my walking in at Eno's Pond where I found my first Belted Kingfisher of the year (2 of them actually), then knocked around Sands Point scoping the bay and one of the forks of the Forked River for waterfowl, coming up with a few new county birds.

My final stop was at Deer Head Lake in Lacey Township. I've seen it listed a few times on eBird but never saw anything outstanding that would make me want to run down there. However, I know Becky birds it as a lunchtime spot and since I'm still in the gathering phase for Ocean County I thought maybe there would be something I hadn't already seen in the county. And there was. I stopped at the little parking area at the head of the lake and scoped about 500 Canada Geese. I immediately saw a white bird tucked in with them and my first impression was a Great Black-backed Gull but that quickly gave way to white goose. "Well, good," I thought, "I haven't had Snow Goose yet for the year, anywhere." I looked again and couldn't find the goose. It was so small that it could hide behind a Canada. That was interesting. I saw that there was a beach I could walk to, about 3 blocks away, so I just picked up the scope and walked over there. I quickly re-found the goose. However, this is the look it gave me:
Not very helpful. I waited and waited and the goose seemed very comfortable. I shifted my position a little and maybe that got its attention because it picked up its head and walked into the water. Yes, a Ross's with a stubby bill, no "grin patch" and blue/gray caruncles on the base of the bill. I love the word "caruncles." There are some words you only get to use with birds, like "rufous" or "fulvous" and this is another. It means fleshy growths and ROGOs have them while SNGOs don't.

I put out an alert once I was 99% per cent certain of my i.d. Becky showed up first since she works nearby and the bird cooperated with her so that she could see the bill also. Then more familiar faces showed up and the bird got very comfortable again, head tucked in, standing on the edge of the ice. After being there for more than an hour I decided that I'd exhausted the entertainment value of this bird and left. Eventually, those who stayed or showed up later also got a look-see at the bill to confirm the identification. The last report was that it flew to the northwest with some Canadas.

Moral: It is much more satisfying to find the bird than to chase the bird.

My day list:
Spots birded: Bamber Lake; Deer Head Lake; Eno's Pond; Poplar St Boat Launch; Sands Point Park; Sands Point--Dock Ave
Ross's Goose   1
Canada Goose   500
Tundra Swan   64
American Black Duck   2
Mallard   30
Northern Shoveler   2
Ring-necked Duck   15
Bufflehead   6
Hooded Merganser   20
Red-breasted Merganser   2
Ruddy Duck   2
Double-crested Cormorant   1
Turkey Vulture   3
Cooper's Hawk   1
Ring-billed Gull   5
Belted Kingfisher   2
Red-bellied Woodpecker   2
Downy Woodpecker   1
Blue Jay   2
American Crow   4
Carolina Chickadee   9
Tufted Titmouse   8
Red-breasted Nuthatch   1
White-breasted Nuthatch   3
Carolina Wren   1
American Robin   3
Northern Mockingbird   1
European Starling   2
White-throated Sparrow   1
Northern Cardinal   1
House Sparrow   5


  1. You are right in my world .... it is more satisfying to find the bird than to chase it.

    My imagination and ability to make assumptions hasn't flagged, but describe " gathering pase" please.

  2. Phase:a distinct period or stage in a process of change or forming part of something's development.
    At this point in the year a bird I "need" could be gathered in many different spots, rather than later in the year when if I want a new bird I'll have to bird specific habitats for specific birds...or chase.

  3. Hi Larry, nice find on the Ross's Goose. I live right around the corner from the lake, so it sure is a treat. Last year there were a few redheads that I saw, plus a canvasback that someone else reported. It definitely has potential for other good stuff!