Last week Dan Small found a lone Barnacle Goose mixed in with hundreds of Canada Geese along the Chester River in Maryland. My friends and I figured this would be a perfect addition to our four day long ‘Rarity Round-Up’, so we added it in to our plans. This morning we took the ferry over from Cape May and arrived at the Barnacle Goose spot at 10:20am. As soon as we pulled up, we could see other birders looking through their scopes at the goose. We ran over and were able to see the not only the Barnacle Goose, but also an adult Greater White-fronted Goose foraging next to each other and surrounded by Canada Geese. Soon, a truck flushed all the geese into the air. We all tried to keep an eye on the Barnacle Goose as it flew around with the other geese, obviously very confused on where to land now. The Barnacle Goose, accompanied by three (!) Cackling Geese and many Canada Geese flew around the area for a few minutes and at one point flew directly over our heads – what an awesome, up-close up view of this beautiful bird!
As a side note – we noted in the field today that the Barnacle Goose did in fact have both of it’s hind toes. Captive exotic waterfowl are typically required to be marked in some way by breeders. Banding a leg or clipping the right hind toe are two of the four methods. The other methods are pinioning one or both wings or tatooing a number/letter combo on the web of the bird’s foot. Now that we have seen and photographed that this particular bird does have both of it’s hind toes, the only method birders have not been able to rule out is if the bird’s foot webbing is tattooed. It doesn’t really matter though, since this bird is in all likelihood certainly a wild vagrant.