Monday 16 December 2019 35 °F
Today, I was planning on sleeping in, but upon naturally waking up at about 8:45, I checked the Long Island Bird Alert and a possible life bird for me, a Barnacle Goose, was out in Babylon (Long Island)! I promptly checked the train schedule, got dressed like a madman, and hurried down to Penn Station in time for a 9:38 train out to Babylon. My final destination would be Belmont Lake State Park out in Suffolk County where this bird has been seen off-and-on for about two weeks now. Barnacle Geese are sporadic winter vagrants from Europe, with one or two expected to show up on Long Island each winter. The one to show up last winter turned up in a location very far from any public transport, so I was really hoping to find this more-convenient individual today. Barnacle Geese are smaller than Canada Geese and have a white face — overall, they are very beautiful birds!
The uber dropped me off at Belmont Lake State Park at about 11:15, and I promptly saw two birders who, to my dismay, said they missed the bird. Frustrating — I had come all this way! After deliberating with them, though, they said it would be wise for me to stick around and see if any other flocks of Canada Geese would fly in, as well as for me to scan the entire lake in case they missed the Barnacle Goose.
So, I set out, trodding along the lakeshore, scanning through hundreds upon hundreds of ubiquitous CANADA GEESE. There were also GADWALL present, as in the individual in the foreground:
Here’s a closer look at a male Gadwall:
An AMERICAN COOT was also swimming and diving in the vicinity:
MUTE SWAN with CANADA GEESE:
I walked into a forested cove of the lake where hundreds of Canada Geese were roosting, so I dropped to my hands and knees to approach the water so as not to scare the geese any more than I could possibly avoid. No Barnacle! There was a lone AMERICAN BLACK DUCK though:
After crawling back out onto the main path, I scanned the far edges of the lake again and found a COMMON MERGANSER among some RING-BILLED GULLS:
A GRAY CATBIRD was also resting in the shrubs, a nice find since these birds are expected up and down the east coast in the winter, but certainly in much smaller numbers this far north than in the warmer months.
Its relative the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD was also around.
Then, I scanned through the large flocks of Canada Geese in the center of the lake and my eyes rested on a smaller, dainty goose with a white face, a black breast, and a somewhat scalloped pattern on its back: BARNACLE GOOSE! Amazing! Lifer!!!
Here is a shot where you can really compare this European vagrant side-by-side with the run-of-the-mill Canada Goose.
And here it is with CANADA GEESE and a MUTE SWAN:
WOW! Awesome! Bird-of-the-day to the Barnacle Goose, my first life bird since the Golden-crowned Sparrow I got exactly one day short of a month ago! Interestingly enough, both of these lifers for me were also in Suffolk County, the easternmost county of Long Island.
STAY TUNED — next time you hear from me, I will be posting from Buenos Aires, Argentina! Happy holidays!
World Life List: 979 Species (1 life bird today: Barnacle Goose)