Sunday, January 15, 2017

Etra Lake 1/15--Barnacle Goose

Barnacle Goose in back of Canada Geese
in a really lousy digiscoped photo
Last week I was watching reports from all over NJ reporting rare birds, but as the weather was just too frigid, I chose to stay an armchair birder, though I wasn't happy about it. Even though I always say that I don't worry about winter rarities in the beginning of the year because I know I'll have a second chance at them late in the year, the reports of rare geese from Allentown, about 40 minutes from here, really hurt.

Today, while we were up in the Norway Spruce grove at Assunpink, someone got an alert about a Barnacle Goose at Etra Lake, about a 15 minute drive from our location. A second chance!

Etra Lake mysteriously attracts rare geese. It also attracts huge numbers of Canada Geese. I didn't relish looking through what turned out to be easily a 1000 Canadas, but when I got there, I set up the scope and methodically started at the left side of the goose flock and scanned to my right. Fortunately, the light was perfect, with sun behind us illuminating each goose (and a few ducks) but I had gone through about 500 geese with no luck. And then, there it was, a much smaller goose with silvery stripes on its back, a creamy cheek, and a stubby bill. It is always a thrill to find the bird yourself. It is also, in a way, easier than having someone try to give you directions as to where the bird is in the flock: "Go to the corner of the white building across the lake, then come down into the water where it is blue instead of black."

When I go to Etra Lake I always set up in a small parking lot right off the road where you can view the whole lake head on, but some of our group went into the park to look from shore. I don't usually like that vantage because you get blocks by tree branches and reeds, but I heard a cheer go up from my left and new that they too had found the bird. I walked over there, thinking that maybe I'd get a better picture of the bird, but true to experience, the bird kept drifting to the left and to the left were bushes and branches. I told Scott the Barnacle Goose was nice, but now find me a Cackling Goose. That is a project for which I have nil patience--looking through a 1000 geese for one that looks just like a Canada Goose but shrunk down to Mallard size. No thanks. Looking at everyone else's list tonight, there were, apparently, no Cacklers there today that could be picked out. I'll have to wait for one to show up in a small flock of geese.

Barnacle Goose brought my year list up to 109.

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