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Goosing Greensboro

December 3, 2007

The report came crackling over the air waves, well, not really the “air” waves, more like the internet. And crackling is a bit hyperbolic perhaps, messages tend to sidle if anything. With my new schedule preventing Saturday outings but with Sunday free to be, birds and me, I decided to chase down a report of a Ross’s Goose in nearby Greensboro. I figured 40 minutes wasn’t to far to go for a staked out lifer and I really wanted to get the little goose that eluded me last winter at Pocosin Lakes NWR. Perhaps a housing development isn’t the most scenic place to go birding, but in the end, you have to go where the birds are. It’s the mantra that drives us wacky bird-spotters to landfills and sewage treatment facilities, so it could be worse…

I had to work a couple hours at the Planetarium Sunday afternoon so I was dealing with a schedule. No worries though, I had it all planned out. Out the door at 7:15, a quick coffee stop, on the road by 7:30, to Greensboro and on the bird by 8:30. I would allow myself some time for either searching a second spot if the Goose was not present on site A or enjoying the sense of accomplishment that comes with tracking down a lifer (along with plentiful scoped views and photos). Back on the road by 9:30, home at 10:30, to work at noon. It was foolproof, a slam dunk.

As I made the jaunt down I-40 I began to question whether this was the “right” way to find a Ross’s Goose. The true joy with this bird comes from scoping out the huge flock of Snow Geese and finding the one slightly smaller. The triumph in finding the unexpected in the midst of the expected, the pride of doing it yourself. I was doing none of these things. I was chasing down a bird which had been seen in a small pond in an apartment complex amongst the urban institution that are feral Canada Geese. It certainly wasn’t how I would choose to find a Ross’s Goose in a perfect world, but the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I was going.

I pulled into the development where the goose had been seen a couple days prior. The place was amusingly called the “Lodges at Lakefront”, despite the fact that the water was maybe 100 meters across and had a small fountain in the middle. I found the Canadas, chasing and biting on the shore. The only birds on the lake were a smattering of Mallards of the sort that straddle the line between wild and domestic. It was hard to imagine a Ross’s Goose in this place. It didn’t take long to check out the pond (I refuse to call it a lake) in its entirety. No Ross. I moved on to site B.

Another pond sat in the back yard of a private home, the owners of which had graciously allowed birders to scope the lake from their backyard. It was slightly better than the first. More Mallards, a domestic Mute Swan and a single female Hooded Merganser were all that was left. I drove up and down the road where the Goose was seen checking a couple more flocks of Canadas I found in the fields. No Ross… again. It was time to go home.

In the parlance of the twitcher I’d say I dipped. Serves me right though, a Ross’s Goose really should be found amidst a flock of 10,000 Snow Geese. You should have to work for it, not pull up in a housing development and tick it. I would have been happy for the lifer don’t get me wrong, but I love the chase. Next time I’ll get the chase and the bird. Then I’ll be happy.

  1. Jochen permalink
    December 3, 2007 11:48 am

    Exchange your name for mine and Ross’s for Lesser White-fronted and this post is all mine…

  2. Larry permalink
    December 3, 2007 8:53 pm

    If you found them every time there wouldn’t be much of a thrill.

  3. Greg permalink
    December 3, 2007 11:01 pm

    When you come to the Ozarks, we could try to talk the ladies into stopping at Four Rivers CA on the way down from KC. There you would be able to find the thousands of Snow Geese, and maybe a Ross’s or two. By the way, my lifer Ross’s was at Lake Springfield, amid domestics.

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