Last Sunday, NJBIRDS reported Pink-footed Goose sightings in Bergen Co. There have been 2-3 Pink-Footed Goose sightings confirmed in the NJ-PA region this winter. I was fortunate enough to see the first pink-footed goose early on when it appeared in Hunterdon, Co. So, while I already have the pink-footed goose on my life list, I don’t have it on my 2013 list. More importantly, being able to locate the pink-footed goose on my own, would further strengthen my identification skills.
The goose was spotted in Overpeck Park which I drive through on my commute to work. Previously I thought it would make for some good birding, but hadn’t yet a chance to stop and confirm. So following class on Monday, I headed over to the park. (The park is about a ~20 minute drive from Montclair). I scanned the geese on the water and in the soccer field of the Henry Hoebel area, drove through “New Overpeck Park”, but no luck in spotting the goose. When I got home and checked ebird, it turns out the goose had been there about 10 minutes before I reached the park, but was in a region I hadn’t known to check.
So on Thursday, having better done my homework, I returned to the park, beginning with “New Overpeck Park” and scanned every goose flock, every goose, every angle (almost) from the entrance to Challenger Road. I probably scanned between 400 and 500 ordinary geese. When scanning large numbers of birds, looking for a rarity, I find it helps to count them… so I am more attentive in my scanning. With the geese, I count the black necks. If anyone knows other methods to improve scanning skills, by all means, please let me know!)
Nothing in “New Overpeck Park”, so I crossed the road to “Old Overpeck Park”. This time there was no Red-tailed Hawk to entertain me with it’s landing approach in a snag while I waited for the light to turn. I began at the soccer field where a large flock had congregated on Monday, but they weren’t present on Thursday. I saw a few fly in and land behind the construction. Thus, I got out my car and began walking the park. There were a handful of geese in the water and a number on the baseball field. I crept up to the hitter’s mound and crouched along the fence to scan the field. Walking up I had this feeling, “This time this is it! This is the time!”
No goose. I returned to the river walk and continued toward the dog park. There were 40-50 geese on the river. It was difficult to scan due to the trees, but every few paces I would try. I would also scan the sky as stragglers flew in. Then I’d turn and scan the baseball field again from a different angle. I got to the bottleneck, and turned around. Dejected I decided to scan the baseball field one more time from the bleachers.
Scan. Scan. Scan. Finally, I saw a smaller, browner goose. I “wooed!” and jumped for joy. Both quite literally. Then realized I lost sight of the goose. I checked to see who witnessed my antics (no one) and settled to scan the flock again to find the bird. Unfortunately I forgot to look for where the bird had been before I pulled my eyes away so I had to scan the entire flock again. But I ultimately found the bird another 3 times.
Pink-footed Goose from behind. Note the white contrast along feather edges. Very striking in comparison to its larger brethren.
Pink-footed goose from the side. Smaller size is more evident. As are the pink-feet. Pink-feet! Do pink-footed goose have a preference for little pink socks?
- smaller than the Canada Goose
- back feathers appear white tinged along their edges
I found the last marker to be most helpful because how often are birds cooperative?
Species Spotted from Monday and Thursday’s Outings
- Pink-footed Goose
- Canada Goose
- Hooded Merganser
- Common Merganser
- Great Blue Heron
- Bald Eagle
- Ring-bIlled Gull
- Herring Gull
- Great Black-backed Gull
- Rock Pigeon
- American Kestrel
- Fish Crow
- American Crow
- European Starling
- Song Sparrow