Lost?

To look for one bird in a flock of thousands is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. When I arrive at Milavec Reservoir in Frederick, about 100 miles north of Colorado Springs, on this early January day and am greeted by the resounding calls of countless Canada and Cackling Geese, I know that my chances of finding my hoped-for goose are slim. Ever since the report a few weeks ago of the first-ever Colorado appearance of a Pink-footed Goose, which typically breeds in Greenland and Iceland, and overwinters in Northern Europe, a great buzz has energized the regional birding community. Occasional sightings in Canada or the East Coast have occurred, but this species’ presence in our state is sensational.

I am not the only one with binoculars on this frosty morning—two fellow bird enthusiasts are scanning the lake with their optics, and I make their acquaintance. Joe, who has already seen the bird twice, has brought his brother, Steve, to show him this rarity. As on so many previous occasions, I benefit from the heart-warming kindness of strangers, because Joe’s subsequent discovery of the goose allows me a brief glimpse—just long enough to capture two photographs—before I lose it in the ceaseless ebb and flow of myriad geese. I clearly notice its short beak, responsible for its scientific name, Anser brachyrhynchos (Anser is Latin for goose, and brachyrhynchos is Greek for short-billed). Interestingly, the German common name, “Kurzschnabelgans,” reflects the short beak, whereas the English focuses on another prominent feature, the birds’ feet, described by Joe as “bubble-gum pink.”

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

Alas, I never see the goose’s legs, but I do not mind terribly, especially when I realize that other seekers, who arrive a little later, do not get to observe any part of the bird. I indulge in the enjoyment of other geese, whose visits to Colorado are limited to wintertime.

This Pink-footed Goose makes my birding heart beat happily, and even though it is far off-course, reminds me of the amazing miracle of bird migration that spans our one-of-a-kind globe, of the interconnectedness of all living beings, and of the desperate need to get our act together, so that our fellow creatures may continue their age-old movements across continents, which have inspired humans since the dawn of consciousness.

63 thoughts on “Lost?

  1. It’s such a thrill to pick out rarities like this, as you can imagine I have done it several times. In the case of geese we search for the odd Canada or cackling or snow among tens of thousand of pink-feet! (at least they stand out more).

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  2. You may not have thought about it, but Latin anser is etymologically the same word as German Gans and English goose. The fact that Latin lost the initial consonant obscures the relationship. Also related to those words is gannet. Ducky, isn’t it?

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  3. Das glaube ich dir gerne, liebe Tanja.
    Ich sah sie das erste Mal auf der Insel Helgoland, die Kurzschnabelgänse.
    Deine Gänseschar ist überwältigend.
    Aufgeregt wie du wäre ich, wenn ich das erste Mal eine Schneegans sehen würde.
    Es gibt eine kleine Kolonie in Deutschland, nur ist sie für mich viel zu weit weg.
    Ich freue mich mit dir und schicke dir liebe Grüße
    Brigitte

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    • Es war wirklich eine wunderbare Erfahrung, liebe Brigitte, und die Gänse, die uns im Winter besuchen, trösten etwas über den Verlust der Zugvögel hinweg.
      Ich hoffe, daß es Dir irgendwann möglich sein wird, die Schneeganskolonie in Deutschland zu besuchen. 😊
      Sei herzlich gegrüßt,
      Tanja

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  4. What a spectacular sight (anyway) – rare goose or not.

    What a treat to see such a rare bird in your area. I can well imagine how hard it would be to spot it among the myriad geese in your images.

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  5. Yes, I love it when I see one that is not supposed to be in the flock. I remember a Whooper Swan that would come back year after year to the refuge in Southern Oregon. He was supposed to be up in Siberia but he didn’t get the message. So fun to see them! Thanks for the post!

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  6. Wow so many birds! And beautiful surroundings and weather once again. How lucky that you got a glimpse of the pink-footed goose, Tanja. The acquaintance you made must have been quite sharp with his locating skills. Quite a journey from Greenland and Iceland they must have made!

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  7. Awesome sighting and captures, Tanja, what a thrill to see the Pink-footed Goose! I’ve not seen one ever so I am jealous….. 😉 I have met up with some nice people over the years who have pointed me in the direction of a rarity. I, too, try to pass on to someone else who has arrived close to me in a location on a sighting I’m watching. We can help each other see some beautiful birds! 😊

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    • I think your chances of seeing a Pink-footed Goose at the East Coast are probably higher than one in the Rocky Mountains, Donna, so you might still get the opportunity.
      It is humbling to experience the helpfulness and assistance of complete strangers, who want nothing more than to share their enjoyment of nature. I haven’t met too many birders who don’t live up to that ideal.

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  8. I love the different “stripes” of colours and patterns in the second photo. And wow! So many geese! And you got some great photos of the Pink-footed goose! Vibrant colours and crisp details! And the hybrid is so cool! I’ve never seen a Greater White-fronted goose up close but I have seen some large flocks migrate through Edmonton. I love zooming in with my camera, recognizing the unusual birds and feeling excited about a glimpse (though blurry) of exotic migrating birds! 🙂

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    • Not only did I find the Pink-footed Goose spectacular, Myriam, the setting was incredibly pleasing, too, looking at the Rockies from out on the plains. And I love to look at and photograph waterfowl because they are often so accommodating. If they are rare or exotic, even better. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Nirmala. I hope you enjoy the geese you do see in Ann Arbor. I really enjoy having them around in winter, find them very attractive, and their behavior interesting to observe.
      Since I have never birded in Michigan, I don’t know about other geese there, but I imagine that you could find other species, too. If you are ever interested in birding, the local chapters of the Audubon Society offer field trips for anyone interested.
      Happy springtime to you,
      Tanja

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