The Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary lies about half an hour north of the city, just over the Columbia County border. Making it to this pond is a tradition I make happen once or twice a year, and I prefer going in fall. I have been horrible at picking good birding days this year, and I missed out on most of waterfowl migration. However, there was a surprise waiting for me today. In birding a “life bird” or “lifer” is one you’ve never seen before. It took me a minute or two to make out my small flock of lifers hiding among the rest of the waterfowl today.
Snow geese (Chen caerulescens) have been a “nemesis bird” (one that I always seem to miss) for many years now. I even saw their less common cousin, the Ross’s goose (Chen rossii), when my parents and I read a bird report in 2014 that said one was just a mile from our house. As you can see in the above picture, the snow goose has two varieties of plumage: the more common white morph and the gorgeous blue morph, where the goose below the neck is given a dark coloration. The two blue morphs in the picture are at the far left and center.
Also present on the pond were Canada geese (Branta canadensis), mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus), and canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria).
Also also present was something that I didn’t notice until I reviewed grainy pictures back home on my computer. I hadn’t bothered to bring my parents’s scope because I thought my binoculars and camera would be enough, but I underestimated the size of the pond in my memory. My binoculars were not powerful enough to see every bird in full detail, and the stationary scope at the pond had finally been out in the weather long enough that it was no longer usable (in the past it just gave me foggy, but adequate, views). Anyway, when I got home, I realized I missed out on another lifer- the greater white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons). And no, I can’t possibly count it if I saw it in a photo later. Mega-zoom cameras are great, but only on small ponds like Stricker’s Pond can they double as a scope. Oh well, I’m glad to have you as my nemesis, greater white-fronted goose, and I’m happy to have added you to my list, snow goose.