Saturday, November 22, 2008

Faithfully Following Foraging Flocks Facilitates Finding Foreign Fowl

Last Saturday (11/16/08) I took a ride to the ponds along Research Parkway in Meriden, CT. I wanted to see if I could relocate the Eurasian Wigeon that Vern had spotted when he made his visit to Connecticut. There were still plenty of American Wigeons as well as a Northern Pintail, but the Eurasian Wigeon must have been hiding somewhere. I was talking to a young birder, (a guy in his early 20's, if that) who was telling me about his birding adventures over the last year. He had come into some money and decided to drive all the way to Alaska and build his list of birds along the way. As we were talking, a third birder came along and informed us of a Barnacle Goose that had just been seen on a farm off of North Branford Road in Wallingford. I thanked him for the information and within 15 minutes I was at the farm. I found the Barnacle Goose mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese. It's markings were very distinct. The white face and black that extended down to the breast made the bird easy to pick out with binoculars. It was the first time that I had seen one and I was very impressed by it's appearance. At the same farm there was an added bonus. It has an orange bill but it's too small to be a Great Egret and Snowy Egrets have a black bill. This bird seems to have shorter legs and is a little bit chunkier than a snowy. The reason it doesn't fit into either category is that this was a Cattle Egret! That is another pretty good bird to see in Connecticut and was also another first for me.

It was great to see the Cattle Egret and the Barnacle Goose on the same morning. News had spread quickly of the favorable viewing location of the two rarities. When I see rare bird chasers in action, they remind me of a secret government agency. They should have a special name-How about the AVI (Avian Bureau Of Investigation)? As the convoy of cars arrived, there were cell phones, binoculars, spotting scopes, two way radios, and cameras with giant lenses everywhere. I'm not complaining about it. After all, I was there doing the same thing. It just gets to be kind of amusing at times. As pleased as I was to have seen these two rarities, it would have been more fun if I had found them myself. You have to give credit to the birders who find some of these rare birds. They put in a lot of time carefully scanning through large flocks one by one. Most of the time they don't find anything unusual. Many birders don't have the patience to search through every flock of Canada Geese they come across. I've been trying to make a point to search through large flocks of birds, but apparently I don't do it consistently enough or I probably would have found something besides the occasional Brant by now.

I was on my way to Simsbury, hoping to get a look at the recently reported Calliope and thinking about what I was going to write in this post. I was traveling along Day Hill Road in Windsor and noticed a flock of Canada Geese. Probably just a bunch of Canada Geese and nothing more I thought but I would have felt hypocritical if I didn't stop to take a look. When I first entered the lot, some of the geese took flight before settling down again. I started scanning through the flock. I caught a glimpse of an orange bill on one of the geese in the pond. Probably one of those domestic Graylag geese I thought. I remember being fooled by them before.
The orange-billed goose then came out of the pond and started to walk across the grass. It had white behind the bill and orange legs. It had a dark area on the side. The head and body were smaller than what I've seen on Graylags. It turns out that I was rewarded for my efforts because this bird turned out to be the much rarer Greater White-fronted Goose. I was pleased to have found this bird on my own for a change without having to rely on the CT rare bird listserver!

click to play

This is a short video of the Cattle Egret I saw last weekend.

Additional Notes: For interesting information and great photos about the birds mentioned in this, post see Gaggles Of Geese in the November 14th post of Talking Nature With Greg Hanisek. He is very knowledgeable about the population and distribution of birds in Connecticut. He is the guy to ask if you have any questions about birds in Connecticut.

There have been a lot of interesting birds seen in the fields and ponds near route 68. Here are a few places to check in that area:
  • Mckenzie Reservoir in Wallingford .
  • The ponds on either side of Research Parkway in Meriden.
  • Traveling down 68 from route 17 in Durham, there is a skating pond on the left, and further down the road there is a game club pond on the right.
  • The Lyman's Orchard Pond in Middlefield.
  • There are also a number of farm fields throughout the area that are worth checking.


Patrick B. said...

Great birds Larry!

Jayne said...

Say that title five times fast!!! :c) Glad your patience and perseverance was rewarded Larry!

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Cool birds, cooler illiterative title!

Larry said...

Patrick-thanks- I know that you've seen more than your share of "good" birds!

Jayne-Thanks jayne-I did say it ten times fast.-I hope that my that the rewards to perserverance ratio improves this year.

The Zen Birdfeeder-Thanks-really all I wanted to do was post the title to get it out of my system but I just happened to see some good birds at the same time.

Dawn Fine said...

Great...I love it when I see video posted on blogs...just adds another dimension to the whole thing...thanks

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
That Barnacle Goose is really neat looking.
I'm not much of a searcher for rare birds (kinda lazy I guess) unless they show up in my backyard. I'm glad you took the time to have a look at these birds and share them with us.

dguzman said...

Way to go, Larry!

Dawn Fine said...

Oh i forgot to mention...great title..say that five times fast..ha

Ruth said...

You do have a way with words, Larry. I am going to look more closely at the flocks of Canada Geese around here. Great pictures.

Anonymous said...

Barnacle Goose huh! My next one will be my first one. Great Bird! Congrats. Guess I'll have to come back to CT next year for one!

Larry said...

dawn-thanks-I really like video because even if I can't get a good photo there's always a chance that I can capture some usable video footage. It allows for more room for error than photos do.

Ruthiej-Believe me ruthie-I am selective as to which birds I will go to see.It has to be one of the following:
1) Close and convenient

2)A species that I find interesting beyond just a checkmark on my life list.

3)Something extremely rare within driving distance. -So I do pass on many opportunities.

Ruth-I know they can be boring to look at but if something does turn up it makes it worth it.

PA-birder-thanks-and it was just a couple of miles around the corner from where you saw the Wigeon!

Larry said...


Tom said...

Congrats on a great day of birding! You showed how important it is to keep the faith. Thanks for the pics.

Texas Travelers said...

Happy Thanksgiving from Texas....

Troy and Martha

Chris said...

It looks like it was a great day for you.... Barnacle goose,superbe!!!
We never have them in Iceland, we sometime do have Canadian goose thought!!! But the most common are definitively the greylag and the brent geese...
Good shots anyway!!!

Einstein's Brain said...

I am glad you found those. I haven't been to Meriden much. I should go out that way sometime.

Mary said...

HA! I couldn't say that five times fast if I tried hard, right now :o)

Great birds and video of the Cattle Egret!

Happy Thanksgiving, Larry.

Larry said...

Tom-I'm trying to become a more patient birder.Sometimes it's tough.

Texas travelers-And the same to you Troy and Martha.

Christine-That little area between Durham, Meriden, and Wallingford has some interesting places to look for birds.

Mary-I don't know if I could even say it once right now and I'm the one who wrote it.-Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family too!

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on the rare bird sightings! That's way cool. :)

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, glad to see you are back online and posting! I was afraid we wouldn't hear from you for a long while since your computer crashed. Congrats on finding the greater white-fronted goose. You've certainly been getting around, haven't you!

Larry said...


Kathiebirds-Yes and no-I've been getting around Connecticut but then again Connecticut isn't all that big.

steadyjohn said...

Loony Larry let last Lark left loose lest lachrymose lamentations linger longer
I could not resist! I did try to get bird references in there;don't mind the loon part!

Larry said...

steadyjohn-It gets contagious after a while.-Showoff! I've been called worse and it probably does have a tinge of truth to it anyway.