December 31st   Leave a comment

The local goose spectacular is still going although it moved to Kilrenny a few days ago. Today there were at least 3,500 pinkfeet in a field about 1 kilometer north northeast of Kilrenny Common. I didn’t do a very serious count – only from one vantage point and in blocks of fifty – so my estimate may be low by a thousand or two with many birds being obscured by other birds. I was mostly on the lookout for a Greenland white-fronted goose reported in the flock yesterday. It took about 45 minutes of scanning before I found it. I haven’t got that much experience with whitefronts so I was looking out for the white blaze at the base of the bill. A great feature but perhaps not so good when you have thousands of geese to check, and when almost all have their heads down in the dips of a ploughed field. One advantage to the geese of being in such a big flock is that there will always be several geese looking up to spot approaching predators. This means that individuals can keep their heads down feeding continuously for literally minutes at a time without compromising their own safety. So my chance of looking at the right goose in 3,500 just when it looked up was fairly remote. What finally gave it away was its white rump. Greenland whitefronts are much darker than pinkfeets on the back, tail and on the belly so this makes their white rump really stand out. Once I realised I should be looking for the white contrast at the tail end rather than at the head end it suddenly became a fairly conspicuous goose. The whitefront was also spectacularly dark on its belly with thick tiger stripes of black. So much of birding is working out what is distinctive. Then what previously seemed the same suddenly becomes different: not just sparrows, but tree or house sparrows; not just gulls, but herring and common gulls. Your world has suddenly become richer – like learning to read.

A greenland white-fronted goose (taken on Islay, amore usual haunt than Kilrenny)

Posted December 31, 2011 by wildcrail in Sightings

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