Goosin' Again - Ross's

I only had a couple of hours to bird on Saturday, 1/2/13, so I decided to stick somewhat locally and search for some waterfowl. I checked all of the nearby goose roosts, my favorite being West Brook Pond in North Great River. West Brook continues to have solid goose numbers but the Greater White-fronted disappeared after the recent freeze event. I decided to head south to Timber Point Golf Course in south Great River. Timber Point is an attractive site for birding. The course runs along the west side of the mouth of the Connetquot River. I've seen Dovekie here, in the channel near the police basin, as well as Tundra Swan in the course ponds.
Ross's Goose - iScope image taken at Hecksher State
Park in East Islip. Taken with Meostar S2 Spotter and 
Meopix Adaper

Lately, all I've been seeing is the same flock of brant but knew it was only a matter of time until a Canada herd developed. The County annually hires a "goose chaser." Some young guy with a Collie that bumps back and forth between West Sayville Golf Course, and here at Timber Point, chasing geese around all day. It doesn't seem to be very effective as the geese simply move on to another feeding area, then back to the course when the chaser leaves. Geese are pretty smart creatures. Anyway, I pulled into Timber at around 9:15 AM and noticed a Canada Goose herd, about 300 geese, feeding near the western end of the course, immediately east of the boat basin channel where the Dovekie showed up a couple of years ago. I parked at the channel and began to walk to a clearing where I could get a good detail on these geese. Through the phragmites, I could see a pedestrian walking his dog right toward the geese. Sh*t! The entire herd lifted off the ground. Still obstructed by the phragmites wall, I sprinted north to the opening and pulled my binocs up on the flight of geese. I immediately got on a small white goose flying with the Canada's. It had to be a Ross's Goose. The bird was markedly smaller than the Canada's with which it flew. I tried to get a handle on bill size and finally got a good angle. I could barely see a bill, which was a good sign that this was a Ross's Goose. I watched the flock fly toward the Connetquot River and BANG BANG BANG!!! I heard several shotgun blasts rip out of the edge of the River. I kept a close eye on the Ross's Goose and was relieved to see that it had escaped the gunners. The Ross's flew south with small sub-flock of Canadas in an effort to avoid more gun shots. I lost the goose on the horizon as it hooked toward the west. "It must be heading to Hecksher State Park," I thought to myself.
Ross's Goose - iScope image taken at Hecksher State
Park in East Islip. Taken with Meostar S2 Spotter and 
Meopix Adaper

Hecksher is immediately adjacent to Timber Point, another reason why I think Timber is such an attractive birding course. I canvassed all of Hecksher. No Ross's Goose. My mind would not rest until I found this bird, on the ground, and had a chance to detail its bill. Ross's Geese can and do hybridize with Snow Geese, sometimes making for a confusing ID. Friend, Dave Lamagna photographed a presumed Ross's-type hybrid goose at Jones Beach West End this past December. I embedded a photo of his goose below, just to show how similar Snow X Ross's can really look. My quick morning of birding turned into a 4-hour "wild goose chase" in hopes to relocate this bird. I gave up at 12:15 and figured I'd try in the morning, in the meantime, getting the word out that a Ross's was around.

While having lunch with Elizabeth, I missed a call from Ken Fuestel. I listened to his message and immediately heard enough, "Derek, I have your Ross's Goose at Hecksher State Park." I was thrilled and at ease, drank a celebratory Hoptical Illusion on cask and planned my return trip. Elizabeth and I took a ride to Hecksher, showing up around 3:15 and quickly had the goose. It was feeding within a small herd of Canada Geese just north of parking Field #4. I can't recall seeing such a frantically feeding herd of geese. Not only were their bills rapidly grazing the grasses but they were nearly running as they fed. The Ross's Goose took a couple "shots" from the nearby larger, bullying Canada Geese but overall seemed comfortable.
Ross's Goose - iScope image taken at Hecksher State
Park in East Islip. Taken with Meostar S2 Spotter and 
Meopix Adaper
Finding this Ross's Goose was sort of a personal accomplishment for me. I have now been lucky enough to be the finder/reporter of each species of rare  to uncommon geese that are possible to see in New York State. Good Goosin.'

Presumed Snow X Ross's Goose - This image was taken by Dave Lamagna at
Jones Beach State Park on 12/2/12. Overall, this bird strikes me as a bit bulkier
than the Ross's Goose above. Most importantly, one must notice the minute details
in the bill shape and size. Also of note is the curvature of the bill/face edge. Ross's
shows a muh cleaner/straighter interface between the base of the bill and where it
meets its face.


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