Greater White-Fronted Goose Observed In West London
The bright orange legs and bill of the Greater White-fronted Goose are among the field marks that differentiate it from the Canada Goose.
Despite having one of the largest ranges of any goose in the world, the Greater White-fronted Goose is less commonly found east of the Mississippi. These geese breed across the tundra far to our north, while typically overwintering in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America.
On Thursday, a single Greater White-fronted Goose was reported among a large flock of Canada Geese at The Coves and adjacent soccer field behind the German Canadian Club in London, Ontario.
By observing from a distance, my presence went unknown to this Greater White-fronted Goose. I watched for several minutes as this bird, rare in our area, preened its feathers.
Having never seen a Greater White-fronted Goose, I headed out first thing Friday morning in hopes of adding this bird to my life list. After searching unsuccessfully in the area around The Coves where the bird was originally located, I headed down to Springbank Park to meet my Dad for one of our morning walks.
Still hoping to see the Greater White-fronted Goose, I kept a close watch on the various flocks of Canada Geese in the park and on the river. A few minutes into our walk, I observed a small flock of Canada Geese flying upstream over the river. After a quick glance, the flock appeared to contain only Canada Geese. Fortunately, I heard a high pitched call that was not that of a Canada Goose, which caused me to do a double take. Sure enough, the last bird in the flock was a Greater White-fronted Goose.
Greater White-fronted Goose preparing to set its wings after preening.
My Dad and I watched as the flock of geese banked over the path and landed on the soccer field in the west end of Springbank Park. I knew from the angle we were at, the morning sun would present challenging shooting conditions, so we circled wide around the field so the sun was behind us. Looking across the field, which contained approximately 200 geese, we could not see the Greater White-fronted Goose. I raised my binoculars and scanned the flock searching for the distinct field marks of the Greater White-fronted Goose, a bright orange bill and feet.
Finally, after scanning roughly half the flock I noticed a single orange leg in the middle of the field. There it was, the Greater White-fronted Goose standing on one leg with its head tucked under its wings. If not actively searching for this bird, it would have gone unnoticed as it blended in quite well with the surrounding Canada Geese.This is the perfect example of why not to dismiss a flock of Canada Geese while out birding. You never know what may be mixed in. Other goose species that are sometimes observed among flocks of Canada Geese are Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese.
Greater White-fronted Goose, Springbank Park London, Ontario
If you are looking to add a Greater White-fronted Goose to your year or life list, I recommend heading down to Springbank Park this weekend. Please remember this is a rare bird for our area, which has migrated thousands of kilometres and is likely exhausted and hungry. When searching for rare birds, remember to be respectful and keep your distance. Do not approach too closely, this will only put unnecessary stress on the bird and in many cases cause it to fly. Many other birders will most certainly be out this weekend in search of this goose, so please be respectful of them as well. Chasing a bird in order to get flight shot or up close image not only stresses the bird, but can spoil the opportunity for others to observe it. There is an old saying that I live by when out photographing birds and I ask you to keep it in mind when you are out, “If my behaviour changes the bird’s behaviour, than I am too close.”
With more above seasonal temperatures and plenty of sunshine in the forecast, it looks like a beautiful weekend to get out birding. Hopefully you will get the opportunity to head out in search of this and other beautiful birds.
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