Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pink-footed Goose

In the movie The Big Year, two of the main characters, Brad Harris (played by Jack Black) and Stu Preissler (Steve Martin) finish off their year of intense birding by watching a Pink-footed Goose, a bird that eluded Brad up until that point. Although I am not doing a "big year," I did not have to wait long to see this species in 2013.

On January 7, Scott Burnet discovered a Pink-footed Goose at Lake Muhlenberg in Allentown, Lehigh County, PA. This rare species is uncommon in this state and throughout the country, although it is making an impressive showing in Pennsylvania this winter! At least three have shown up in the region: one at Peace Valley Park, one at Fogelsville Quarry, and this bird at Lake Muhlenberg. Even though this goose species is quite rare in this area, Matt Loyko and Mike Moser found one at this same urban lake back in 2009.

On the morning of January 12, my mom and I decided to try for this goose that would be a lifer for both of us. We arrived around 7:00am to ensure that we could get a look at the bird before it took off around 8:00am as it had in the previous days. When we got to the spot, the entire area was covered with a dense layer of fog. As the sky got lighter, we walked through the misty air with a crowd of birders hoping for a look at the rarity.

I stopped briefly to scan the barely-visible flock when I spotted the Pink-footed Goose. It was sitting in front of the Canada Geese; its small size and white tail were evident, although we could hardly see anything more.

Our first glimpse of the Pink-footed Goose
After a little while of sitting in place, the Pink-footed Goose slowly swam across the lake. During this time, the fog slowly began to dissipate. When the goose reached the far end of the lake, it did something totally unexpected--it stepped out onto the grass! We watched as the goose (and its uncovered pink feet) waddled on the grass for a while, occasionally pestered by some of the larger Canadas.

Look at those feet!

After about ten minutes on the grass, the Pink-foot wandered back to the water and swam all the way across the lake. By now, most of the lowest fog had lifted, although the sun was still hidden, which made photography a bit tricky.

Then, after a few honks, the goose lifted off the water with a small group of Canada Geese and headed West. In flight, the gray coloration and white tail stood out from the other birds.

The Pink-footed Goose was a lifer for me, my mom, and several of the other observers we met that morning!

1 comment:

Logan Lalonde said...

Great job twitching this rarity successfully! That is a beautiful goose with its petit, pink bill, its white patterned tail, and of course those pink legs!