Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wild Goose Chase!

Hello Fellow Bird Enthusiasts,
We thought you would enjoy this story. On Sunday, March 11 we drove up to Essex County in the northwest corner of Vermont to look for Snow Geese. We have always seen them in the fall when they are on their way south from their Canadian Arctic breeding grounds to their wintering grounds along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Migration Route of Greater Snow Geese (shown in blue)

We had seen reports of them at the Missisquoi Bay Bridge so we drove north to locate them. They weren’t at the bridge so we drove further west to Mud Creek WMA. Here we ran into fellow birders who told us that Snow Geese were seen in a field near the Price Chopper supermarket in Champlain, NY. We explored Mud Creek WMA first seeing thousands of Greater Snow Geese flying north in "V-formation" along the Atlantic Flyway.

Greater Snow Geese Flying Over Mud Creek

Other than the geese overhead, Mud Creek was quiet so we decided to drive to New York to find the large flock on the ground. We drove over the Rouses Point Bridge into New York along the Canadian border and continued west to Champlain, NY where we had no problem finding the Price Chopper supermarket. We located some nearby corn fields but they were empty. We assumed that all the geese had flown off so started to head back to Vermont. We could see flocks of geese overhead and some appeared to be landing nearby. We followed them in our car and located them in a cornfield in a residential area. At first, there weren’t many but more and more came flooding in.

Snow Geese Arriving in the Corn Field

Some even ventured into the yard of a neighboring home. No one in the neighborhood seemed to take notice but us. Maybe they’ve become oblivious to these noisy neighbors?

Greater Snow Geese

I noticed a goose with a yellow tag around her neck. Through my binoculars, I could see she was XM 22. Of all the hundreds of geese in the field, she was the only one with a yellow neck band.

XM 22

I also noticed two individuals that looked different from the rest. They were darker, smaller and had a white eyering. Could they be a different species? No, they turned out to be juvenile blue morphs.

Juvenile Blue Morph

We watched the flock for 45 minutes but it was getting dark and time to get going. When we returned home Marc did a search on “banded bird reporting” and came up with this site administered by the USGS:

He entered the appropriate information and a day later received the results and a certificate of appreciation!

Marc's Certificate of Appreciation

It turned out that this bird was banded near Bylot Island in Nunavut, Canada on August 13, 2017! We had visited there in June 2016 and knew the region where this bird had come from and where she was most likely headed. In fact, she could have hatched the very year we were visiting the floe edge near Bylot Island.  Here is a photo of Bylot Island from our 2016 visit.

Bylot Island

To read more about our trip to the floe edge go to our blog post at:

It was great to see that XM 22 was still alive. Even though Snow Geese can live up to 15 years in the wild, they face many hazards - hunters, colliding with buildings, storms, disease, pollution and predators during migration. We wish her well on the next 1967 miles of her long journey!

Only 1967 Miles to Go!

Fly safe!
Peggy and Marc

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