It must be the winter birding season because I am seeing more ducks and geese now than I have since last February. And it's a good thing. The Pink-footed Goose in Pennsylvania, Snow Geese everywhere I go, a Greater-white Fronted Goose in Connecticut and Black Scoters all around too. And then, on my drive back from Philadelphia, after an all night flight from Tucson, I hear of a Barnacle Goose in a pond outside Hartford. It was only a 4 hour drive and was mostly on my way home anyway.
I arrived at Broad Mill Brook Pond with hopes that it would be an easy bird to spot. I wish I had saved my needle in a haystack reference for this bird. I hear the goose honking before I even see the nearly 1000 Canada Geese in the pond. It was such a spectacle that everyone from the neighborhood, birders or not, was coming to take photos. The pond extended about 200 yards back and unless the goose was close, it wasn't going to be that easy at all.
Very quickly I found a Greater-white Fronted Goose. Shortly thereafter, a Snow Goose. Birds I had already seen this year were easy. The Barnacle Goose was not. I spent most of the next two hours scanning every single goose in that pond for a white face. I kept seeing the Greater-white Fronted and Snow Goose. Was that a Black Scoter? Common Merganser? Cackling goose? Yup. I saw them all, over and over. It was getting late. The sun was sinking below the horizon and perhaps on my chance to find the Barnacle Goose.
Then, as though it has been there all along, the setting sun shone bright on a white face, as it emerged from the cacophony of Canada Geese. I got to watch it swimming amongst the throng, loosing it and then finding it again. I tried to take photos, but it was too far away and moving to much to digiscope. I noticed another birder setting up a scope down the way, and motioned him over, saying I had the goose. He was thrilled as he had come on three previous days and not found it. I was able to point out the correct location to look and he quickly found it too. His name was Jamie and he does Connecticut county lists, and birds every day, somewhere in the state. It was fun, after getting the Longspur and Trogon on my own the other day, to have someone to share the bird sighting with. No high-fives though. He didn't seem the high-five type.
I spent the night in Albany and then drove home yesterday, but with one stop in Presqui'ile Provincial Park, since Fred Helieiner had reported a Barrow's Goldeneye down by the lighthouse the previous morning. This seems to be a returning, wintering bird, and since it was on my way, I went straight there. My timing was perfect as Fred was down by the lighthouse and scoped it for me very quickly. The lake was very choppy and the birds kept going under. There were lots of Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes, which I hadn't seen in 6 months, and one male Barrow's Goldeneye, which, when it was above water, was easily picked out through the scope. Since I am planning on returning to Presqu'ile sometime later, hopefully the water will be calm enough and the bird close enough that I can get a good picture.
I did get 19 birds on that trip and now sit at a nice round 570. It's Saturday. I slept in until 9am. It's sunny, nice out, but I am enjoying a quiet morning at home for a change. Been months since I did that. But I am sure, before long, I will be restless and want to get out and continue the chase. I still have one more trip to Texas and will be going to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and Northern Ontario before it's all said and done. Is 600 possible? Time and birds will tell.