Greenland White-fronted and Canada Geese - 12 Dec 2009
Between errands I checked some of the fields around Bridgehampton, Mecox, Wainscott and Sagaponack for flocks of geese. In general, the numbers seem a bit low but perhaps the current cold spell will change that. The highlights of my search were two geese of Greenlandic origin. The first was a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, seen with c.250 Canada Geese in a field off Wainscott Hollow Road. There is some controversy about the field ID of eastern North American and Greenland populations but to my eyes, the bird shows characters attributed to the Greenland subspecies including a bright orange bill and heavy belly barring. It was quite aggressive, constantly snapping at any Canada Goose that came near and managed to keep a goose free zone around itself much of the time. The geese were feeding on freshly harvested maize on the east side of the road and the white-fronted seemed particularly adept at lifting the flattened steps to uncovered discarded cobs.
Shortly before that I found a marked Greenland-origin Canada Goose at the small pond in the apple orchard off Horsemill Lane in Mecox. This bird was banded as part of an exciting project studying the recent and rapid colonization of western Greenland by Canada Geese. This expansion is believed to be to the detriment of the nesting Greater White-fronts which are smaller and easily displaced from optimal nesting areas. The Canada Geese originate and return to the Atlantic coastal states of North America, whereas the white-fronts winter in western Europe, primarily Ireland and Scotland.
The individual I saw today (marked with a yellow plastic collar and leg band with G24 in black letters) is apparently an adult male that was first captured near Isunngua in western Greenland ('Lake T') on 17 July 2008. He (and for once I can justify using a pronoun to describe a goose) was not reported in the winter of 2008/09 but has already been sighted by Shawn Deuel in the Sagaponack area (9 and 27 Oct 2009). I'm not sure how many birds were marked by the project in the summer of 2008, but the team marked 118 Canada Geese and eight White-fronts in the summer of 2009. Finding these birds on the wintering grounds offers a fantastic opportunity for birders in New York and neighboring states to contribute to this important research.
You can read all about the project here.
Posted by Angus Wilson