Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goose Weekend Part 2 - Pink-footed

The Pink-footed Goose in Washington Twp (NJ) that was roosting on Schlegel Lake each night was not what you might call the easiest bird. It left shortly after dawn, returned shortly before dusk, and during the day fed on inaccessible areas. The lake itself is mostly private property with minimal access. So in order to see this bird - my 3rd Pink-footed in the north-east - I had to leave home at 0415. Actually make that 0515 because when I woke up on Sunday morning I realized that the hour had gone forward.

Either way, it's about a 1:40 drive to Washington Twp from Ewing, and I got there when it was still dark enough that it wasn't worth rushing to the lake. I grabbed a bagel and headed to the library area where you could view the lake through a chain-linked fence. On the lake were a variety of waterfowl: Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Mallard, Wood Duck, Mandarin Duck, Canada Goose, but no PFGO. After a while of rising light and futile scoping a birder came by to tell us that the goose was being seen from the small park at the other side of the lake. A mini rush ensued since there were a fair number of birders, but eventually we did get fairly mediocre views of the Pink-footed before it flew out at 0740 or thereabouts.

Pink-footed Goose used to be relatively rare (population ~30,000 in 1950) but underwent considerable expansion to the point where the UK wintering population exceeds 300,000. These birds breed in Iceland and Greenland so it follows that the odds of vagrant PFGO in north east USA have expanded considerably. Barnacle Goose (Greenland population at least 40,000) is also becoming more numerous, and at least one of the 2010-2011 overwintering individuals was banded and known to be wild (seen in NY, CT).

Anyway, in an attempt to complete a goose trifecta I headed south-east in NJ to avoid the heavy overcast and intermittent drizzle to Lake Como on the northern coast where two Black Brant had been reported the previous day. It was still sunny here, at least for a while. The Brant flocks are probably quite mobile on the Shark River area so I checked four lakes altogether, finding Brant at three of them but failing to find Black Brant anywhere. Since waterfowl migration has been ongoing, there was a diminished selection of birds on the lakes (Bufflehead, Scaup sp, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck) as the birds move out from their wintering areas.

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