14th February 2012 – RED-BREASTED GOOSE & TODD’S CANADA GOOSE

Had a family day on the Scottish side of the Solway today, and it was superb – in the end! I was really keen to see the Taverner’s Canada Goose that has been wintering in the area with the Barnacle Geese, I’m a sucker for vagrant Canada’s, I guess you either love ’em or loathe ’em. And I love ’em! Over the years I’ve seen Richardson’s (hutchinsii), Cackling (minima), Todd’s (interior), and Taverner’s (taverneri), but not Lesser (parvipes). The last time I saw a Taverner’s was back in 2002, so I was hoping to catch up with this one to refresh my memory.

We started at Carsethorn where the bird had been reported yesterday, but there was no sign here. So we moved a little further south towards Southerness and at Loaningfoot we bumped into Clive and John watching a distant flock of Barnies. Amongst the birds was the Red-breasted Goose I’d seen last month in Cumbria, but it was way too far away for pics. Nevertheless a cracking bird to see again. There was certainly plenty of geese about, judging by the way flocks kept flying around, so surely the Taverner’s would still be in the area? We decided to spend some family time messing about on the beach and had a picnic at Carsethorn, maybe the geese would be closer when we returned later. So after lunch we went back to Loaningfoot, and as hoped the geese were very close to the minor road – and there were thousands of them! I quickly located the Red-breasted Goose, and with patience it kept approaching the car closer and closer, soon it was amongst the closest birds and I couldn’t have hoped for better views…

Whilst I was enjoying this bird Tracy was scanning the other Barnies and noticed the Canada dropping in! I couldn’t believe my luck, it had landed right at the front of the flock aswell! I now had both target birds, and my shutter was going crazy!

This bird seemed big, certainly bigger than I remembered, so I was keen to try to see the blackish chin strap – a feature that I thought was diagnostic of Taverner’s. Despite the close views, it was incredibly difficult to see this feature in the field but nevertheless it was present, though perhaps not as bold as might be expected. However I have since read that birds from the western population of ‘Todd’s Canada Goose’ can also show this….! And depending on what you read the form ‘parvipes’ can also have it aswell – although other books say they don’t!!! Confused yet? I am.

The ID of this bird was niggling me, so I sent my images to some ‘experts’. Judging by the size and structure of the bird, and relative bill shape/length, it seems that this bird is a Todd’s Canada Goose (form interior), it’s neck was also very ‘s’ shaped or ‘swan-like’ when feeding, something I remembered from the Todd’s I saw in Lancashire in 2002. Fascinating stuff.

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