Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Great Asian Whatever Goose!

It's funny how accustomed I have become to cold weather this year. Through long practice, of course. If the sun is out, I'm game for another birding trip. Most of the ice from last week's storm has melted away, but the grass at Long Run Park shone in the sun.
Canada Geese are familiar to all birders. They hardly seem to migrate any more, and just live here in Kentucky all year long. Mallard ducks are they same. They are the most common duck you are likely to see, so are often overlooked as "just another Mallard."
Today I had a real thrill though. A friend found American Wigeon at Long Run Park in Eastern Jefferson County, so I drove out this morning to look for it too. The lake is popular with fishermen during the summer, but was frozen today, except for one small circle kept open by the population of Mallards and domestic white ducks swimming around. One bird was different though. My hopes started to rise. Could it possibly be some kind of exotic goose, far, far away from its normal range? After all, there's been a lot of that going on this winter. Could I be the one to find some rare bird for the first time?
Look at its markings...A black vertical bar across the eye. A white forehead, and chinstrap larger than the Canada goose. A big white area in front of the wings. Oh MY! Maybe it's a Great Asian Whatever Goose, blown in from Siberia! I tramp through the crusty snow with scope, binoculars and camera, trying to capture a clear image of it among the ducks snoozing with their heads tucked under their wings. I check the birding apps in my phone. Nothing there resembles this bird, but the apps only carry North American birds, so I'm not too disappointed. I call my friends, and they look up world-wide geese, again finding nothing that looks like mine. "Could it be some kind of hybrid?" they suggest gently. When I get home, I send the photos to Brainard, my authority on everything avian, for confirmation, then start searching in Google for "geese of the world." There doesn't seem to be as many geese species in the world as I expected, and none of them looked like mine. Uh-oh. Maybe the big butt on this one really comes from a domestic goose!
The Jeff Overlook, just across the river, has always been home to hybrid Mallards. I call them Tuxedo ducks, since they usually have black/dark everywhere except on the breast, and look like they are wearing a tux with a white shirt and tie. But here is a nicely mottled black and white one as well.
And this one just merged dark Mallard feathers with white domestic feathers to produce a gray duck! Mallards are very tolerant birds, apparently, and will mate with anything that quacks, at least in this area of the river.

Ah! The latest news is that the adult male Long-tail duck, which actually has a long tail, was sighted at Ashland Park this afternoon. So guess where I'm going tomorrow! Wish me luck!

1 comment:

Jim said...

Not an exotic species but still a cool looking goose. It does not fly but calls like crazy when another goose or geese are coming back to the park. Gives one a heads up to get ready for a landing shot. Best of luck finding the long tail. Not sure where I will head in the morning. Concerned about the low only being mid twenties and the high around 40 I might melt.