Wild Goose Chase

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?

Field Markers

  • smaller than the Canada Goose
  • pink-feet
  • 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

2 thoughts on “Wild Goose Chase

    • We’ve been really fortunate with our influx of unusual here! Also, with such an unusual find so early into the winter season, people have been thoroughly scanning goose flocks throughout the state so we’re probably noticing more than we normally would.

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