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Posts Tagged ‘Canada Geese’

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Goose Walk

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Canada geese and Snow geese

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On the Move

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Each spring, I await the arrival of the first Red-winged Blackbird with great anticipation. From there, spring is a series of birdy firsts. First robin! First grackle! First cowbird! First Song Sparrow! First pair of Hooded Mergansers on the river! First Turkey Vultures! First Great Blue Heron! First woodcock!

And then there are the geese. As they travel north, hundreds stop to forage in the stubble of the many corn fields hereabouts. Mostly, there are huge flocks of Canada geese on the move. But some years, there are Snow geese as well. This year, there have been many Snow geese travelling with the Canada geese.

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These Snow geese in flight are easy to identify, with their black-tipped wings. However, Snow geese come in two morphs, or color patterns. White adults have black wing tips and pink bills, with a blackish ‘grin’ patch. Their feet and legs are pink. Blue-morph adults have a white head and upper neck while their bodies are dark bluish-grey. They may have white tail feathers and varying amounts of white on their belly.

While the Canada geese will nest in Southern Ontario, the Snow geese will carry on far to the north, where they will nest along the shores of Hudson Bay and James Bay.

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Migrating Canada geese are moving through our area as they head north. At night, flocks assemble in the corn field to our west, and forage for food. At a casual glance, you’d never guess the field is playing host to thousands of birds. Their brown and black and white coloration allows them to disappear against the soil and snow.

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Unlike park residents, these geese are wary. The sight of me walking along the road causes them to retreat up the field. If I stop to watch, the closest geese take wing. Their alarm spreads like a wave through the flock and soon every goose is taking flight. The sound of their thousands of wings beating the air is a rumbling thunder. They swirl into the sky and begin to assemble into their iconic Vs as they prepare to move on.

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The flocks of Canada geese sometimes include a few Snow geese pairs. They are easily identified by their white wings tipped in black. Yesterday, I noticed a large drift of unmelted snow along the far edge of a field, and quickly realized the drift was not snow, but geese. The white birds are more conspicuous than their Canada geese cousins. For more on Snow geese, visit Snow Geese Heading North, linked here.

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Lily Pond and Geese

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Canada Geese

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Some of the returning Canada Geese settle on the little river for a break on the journey north. You can see them along the length of the river where the road parallels its meandering course. Many form flotillas on the water, while others pad about the adjacent farm pastures.

Ducks have begun to arrive too. I saw a pair of Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) a few days ago, but they didn’t stick around to have their picture taken. They are small ducks and the male has a conspicuous white wedge at the back of his dark head, which makes him easy to identify. More common are the Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). There are often several pairs to be seen.

The Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) are my favorites. Until last spring, I hadn’t seen any in the wild. The males, with their elegant colouring, are certainly amongst the most beautiful of ducks.

None of the ducks seem to stay into the nesting season, but move on to better habitat. I would like to try mounting a Wood Duck nesting box, a project for next year maybe, although I’m not sure their is sufficient appropriate habitat by the river to allow a pair to raise a family there.

It’s nice to see the ducks, but on Monday I saw a real favorite: the first Great Blue Heron (Ardia herodias) of the year! Apparently he wasn’t as happy to see me as I was to see him, and took off before I was able to get more than one ghostly photograph. But that’s okay. Unlike the ducks, the heron is probably here to stay.

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