Snow and Ross's Geese

There can be staggering numbers of wintering Snow Geese in coastal North Carolina. The photo below shows a fraction of the flock we watched at Pungo Lake (Washington Co., NC) on 12/27/2010. We estimated the total flock to be about 30,000 birds. After they settled, we got good looks at several Ross's mixed in with the flock.

On 11/15/03 about 20 people visited the end of Waupoppin Canal at Lake Mattamuskeet (Hyde Co., NC) to scan the Snow Goose flock for Ross's and a lone, possibly wild Barnacle Goose. The Barnacle did not put in an appearance that day but we were treated to great views of the flock of about 4000 Snows. (Can you spot the Barnacle in this shot??)

Chen caerulescens Snow Goose, Chen rossii Ross's Goose We did find the Ross's though, about 10 of them. Six were together in a small flock-ette. You can see four of them here, hanging out near the back.
We were surprised at the number of blue morph Snow Geese. They used to be much scarcer here.
As we were carefully scanning the flock looking for the Barnacle, Rick Knight and I took note of several geese with neck collars. HT-53 is having a good stretch!

Here's some information on the collared geese we observed on 11/15/03. The first set were banded as part of the White Goose Collar Observation Project sponsored by Environment Canada. Their website is interactive, so I typed in our observations and got instant feedback:

HLC red - Snow Goose (blue)
Collared 1999 at Baffin Island, Nunavut

HNL red - Snow Goose (white)
Collared 1999 at Baffin Island, Nunavut

UYR green - Snow Goose (white)
Collared 2002 at Southampton Island, Nunavut

HNU green - Snow Goose (blue)
Male collared 7/22/2001 at Akimiski Island/Cape Henrietta Maria (near Brant River mouth), Ontario. Adult (born in 2000 or earlier).

E6D red - Snow Goose (blue)
Female collared 8/11/2003 at Niko, Baffin Island, Nunavut. Adult (born in 2002 or earlier).

E7J red - Snow Goose (blue)
Male collared 8/11/2003 at Baffin Island, Nunavut. Adult.

Several others were collared with a different numbering scheme. I reported these at the Bird Banding Laboratory site and received the information by mail a couple of weeks later.

Yellow collars (all white Greater Snow Geese):

CY81 - female banded 8/13/94 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Was too young to fly when banded.

HH38 - female banded 8/12/98 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult (born in 1997 or earlier).

HJ32 - female banded 8/13/98 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult. Brian Van Druten writes that HJ32 was seen at Pea Island on the bird survey on 11/24/04 - a little over a year later and 40 miles away!

HT53 - female banded 8/10/99 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult.

HX28 - female banded 8/12/99 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult.

JY44 - female banded 8/12/01 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult.

KR12 - female banded 8/11/03 near SW Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Adult.

Bylot Island is off the northern coast of Baffin Island in the new territory of Nunavut, formerly part of the Northwest Territories. The entire island is a conservation area, the Bylot Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and also now part of Sirmilik National Park.

All photographs and text ©2013 by Will Cook unless otherwise noted.