Tuesday, 25 January 2011

In defence of the single goose

Why do the words ‘of unknown origin’ seem to follow every report of a single ‘wild’ goose? Single geese have had a rough deal for as long as I can remember, usually being relegated to the ‘escapes section’ of the bird report without much thought.  Clearly some individuals do have a captive origin, but the occurrence of these single geese seems to better reflect their national status rather than the number in captivity. Single White-fronts used to be more frequent in the Lee Valley (reflecting their abundance nationally) but were normally ignored or regarded as escapes. These days, they are decidedly scarce. Single Bean Geese in the Valley over the last 30 or so years have all been ‘escapes’, despite at least two being rossicus and turning up in cold winters. Okay, Barnacles are very messy, with the huge numbers of feral birds in East Anglia and the near continent, but most single grey geese are likely to genuine wild birds in my opinion. With a bit of careful consideration, the status of wild geese in our area could be better documented.

Anyway, the goose flocks at Holyfield today included a second Pink-foot that has joined the long-staying bird from last year, and a single White-front was also present. Interestingly, the flock also contains a neck-collared Greylag Goose, caught and ringed in Sweden in 2000 and seen in the UK this winter and last, before apparently migrating back north-east. It was in Bedfordshire, Essex and then Rattray Head in Aberdeenshire last spring, before re-appearing in Cornwall in December.

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