May 29, 2024

Barnacle, snow, white-fronted geese flock to Yarmouth field

A barnacle goose arrived in a Yarmouth field this fall in the company of nearly a thousand Canada geese. These geese spent many days in October and November grazing in that field. Many birders went to see the rare barnacle goose.

There are only about 40,000 barnacle geese in the Western Hemisphere, and they breed in northeastern Greenland. They migrate to islands off Scotland to spend the winter. Others breed in northern Eurasia.

Very few have flown down the East Coast of the United States, hence the excitement among birders – something new and different!

The barnacle goose was first spotted by birders on Oct. 6, and the news spread quickly among birders. Other geese were there, too – a snow goose, a white-fronted goose and several cackling geese.

The unusual geese stayed awhile and then left for about 10 days. That was the end of that, I thought.

But they came back – another opportunity to see them! Avid birders Bob Milardo and Renate Klein and I exchanged e-mails about going to Yarmouth to see these geese. We settled on a day in late November, hoping that the rare geese would stay.

“We often have good luck,” Bob said.

We arrived at the field and saw many Canada geese. They were grazing, standing, sitting on the ground, flying in formation.

Geese kept disappearing behind a little rise or into a little valley.

Geese flew to a little pond, landing with their webbed feet well in front. We laughed when they skidded across the whole pond, feet first.

Suddenly, Bob said, “The white-fronted goose!”

It had a bright orange bill and legs and white around its bill. It was smaller than the Canada geese, too. Then Bob called out again, “There’s the barnacle!”

The barnacle was a handsome goose with a white face, black neck and natty gray, white and black wings.

We watched all these geese for an hour more, then left for home, hoping for two new geese on our Maine list – if the Maine Bird Records Committee determines that this barnacle goose is a wild bird. They peruse all the evidence carefully, then vote.

Birders keep their bird lists carefully. We keep life lists, state lists, etc. I like to compare it to a collection.

You can never “complete” this abstract collection, but you love to work on it.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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