Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is the goose, loose?

Just a random rare-bird-finding thought... I think 2014 is the year Ontario either gets its first record of PINK-FOOTED GOOSE, or its second (accepted) record of BARNACLE GOOSE...


First - I think the added ice and snow is going to concentrate some massive flocks of birds in far-eastern-Ontario along the St. Lawrence - giving observers the reason to visit and view the spectacle. Therefore also giving them a chance to actually find one of those two beauties if they're present.

Second - I just think we're overdue at this point...

Typically I would keep some of this information to myself.. Why? Partially because I'm just guessing, but also because I would selfishly want to find one myself!!! With that said, it's starting to look like I am going to be REALLY busy during the best times anyways... So I may not be able to make the most of it...

Therefore - I'm going to share some thoughts on how to find one! 

1.) - Don't sweat the Snow Geese! - Sure, they're beautiful... But based on my research, the Barnacle or Pink-footed is going to be associated with CANADA Geese instead. I'm sure you'll happily find a Ross's Goose among those Greater-Snow's, or even a White-fronted. But the gold birds could be elsewhere. 

2.) - Visit sites during GREAT lighting.... If the sun is in your eyes, it's going to be rough scanning a few thousand Canada Geese. Maybe a cloudy day would be better, depending on when and where you're looking?

3.) Quickly learn their behaviour. I've often found that geese head to the fields much more often on windy days, and less-so on calm ones. Also - a roost site can be amazing at dusk. The more geese you see, the higher your odds are of seeing more species! 

4.) Scan EVERY goose... This is something I typically do with all birds, but goose-specifically - I OFTEN see Cackling Geese as the one or two birds, on the extreme edge of a flock (or even distancing themselves from other birds) as an example... A rapid scan is fun, but that Pink-foot could easily be 30ft to the side, by itself. 

5.) Rare birds are rare... Another time tested and true bit of advice, they're rare for a reason. You can do everything right, and see nothing. Make it fun! The more fun you have, the more you'll look, and the more you'll end up seeing.

Based on my research, it looks like March 25 to April 2 is historically "prime time" for those beasts to move inland from the coast. Things may be totally whacky this year with the weather, so keep your eyes peeled for reports of big CANADA Goose movements around this time frame, or potentially a little later.

Another "wave" of Barnacles and Pink-foots seem to move in the April 22-May 1 time frame, but by then I'm worried about SW Ontario (so I won't be looking) - but something to keep in mind if you live that way. 

Good luck out there!


  1. I like your optimism...I'll be looking but the problem isn't scanning through a few thousand geese. That's a small flock for eastern Ontario. The problem is scanning through flocks of one or two orders of magnitude bigger than that! When I visit my inlaws near Winchester I expect to see 10,000+ Canadas flying over their farm on a normal day.

  2. I agree with you Mike, The Magnitude of the number of geese and the average flock sizes absolutely dwarfs the rest of Ontario. Hell to see flocks of 30,000+ Greater Snow Geese or 10,000 Canadas is expected daily. I have been going down to see my inlaws for 10 years and have conservatively looked through 4Million + geese for that needle in the Hay Stack. I have found lesser snow geese, Ross's, Greater White-fronted, Cackling and hell even one PINK Greater Snow Goose (Probably blood stained). Maybe this year those 2 Pink-footed Geese currently in Pennsylvania will stop in Ontario. Just need to have the flocks settle long enough. i.e, not in spring snow goose hunting areas or have the expected Golden Eagles hunting them.