Friday, March 12, 2010

Wild Goose Chase

I woke up at the usual time on the morning of March 12 and looked at my watch. "Oh crap!", I said out loud. I thought I had set my alarm for 30 minutes earlier so I could ride the 2 1/2 miles to the Elfin Forest to look for the Snow Goose reported on the listserve "slocobirding" the day before. Snow Geese show up in the county most winters and I would probably see one in December, but what if I didn't and I finished the year at 299?
I very quickly showered and ate, and briefly walked my dog (sorry Nike) so I could create 30-40 open minutes in my morning before I had to leave for work. Loading my bike for birding has become an almost unconscious routine and I was on my bike at just after 7 AM. I had 40 minutes to ride my bike 5 miles, walk to and from Bush Lupine Overlook at the Elfin Forest (the best overlook of the "back bay' where the Snow had been seen with a flock of Canadas) and find the goose. I brought my point and shoot camera for an attempt at digiscoping since the bird would be too far out for my SLR.
I arrived at the overlook thinking "white." The tide was at an intermediate level and the salicornia flats were dotted with white shapes - White Pelican, Snowy and Great Egrets, gulls and Caspian Terns (see the photo). I found 2 Canada Geese in one spot and another elsewhere, but no Snow. With very little time left, my scope scanning of the estuary finally turned up a white goose. Was it a Snow or a Ross's? Compared to the Willets it seemed large enough to be a Snow. I zoomed my Zeiss scope to 60 power and waited impatiently for the goose to turn its head and show its bill. I was about to "pack it in". (If I stayed too long and was late to court, I could imagine telling the judge, "The stupid goose just would not turn its head."). Then it turned its head in good light so I could see that it did not have the stubby bill of a Ross's and it had black "lips'. (Snow Goose - BIGBY # 209).
I tried to get a decent digiscope photo, but I could only get white blobs like the one depicted here (I know, I need an adapter). After several blob shots, I dashed back to my locked bike and rode home (7 minutes, when I push it). Check off one more wintering species tick!

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