Big Year Birding – Snow Geese in Salem County

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Earlier this week I blogged about my first solo birding trip to Salem County in search of a Tufted Duck.  While the Tufted Duck finally got me off my hands and into the car, I had been thinking about a trip there for some time.  Large flocks of Snow Geese over-winter in Salem County and, with these large flocks comes the opportunity for locating a Ross’s Goose.

I had been searching for a Ross’s Goose all winter.  One particularly vexing report had a lone Ross’s Goose hanging out with a large flock of Canada Geese.  You would think a small white goose in the middle of 100’s of large brown geese would be easy to find.  In my case, you would be wrong.  I may be the only birder in New Jersey who didn’t find that particular Ross’s Goose.

As I drove around Salem County, I quickly began to appreciate the landscape.  Large farms and rolling fields could make you forget for a moment that you were driving around one of the most populous states in the country.  I would stop here and there to look and listen, and quickly found Eastern Meadowlark singing away from nearby fence posts.

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I also found three flocks of Snow Geese like the one pictured at the top of this post.  Finally, after weeks of searching and hours spent looking at 1000’s of Snow Geese, I found my bird.  Fortunately, my Ross’s Goose was standing in front of a Blue Goose (a color morph of Snow Geese).  Unfortunately, distance and simmering air made a clear photo impossible.  Still, you can see the round head and short bill, two of the diagnostic field marks of a Ross’s Goose.   A little harder to distinguish is the overall “white” color of the head, when compared to nearby Snow Geese, and the smaller body size.

I have now found the complete set of geese occupying New Jersey this winter – Canada Goose, Cackling Goose, Brant, Pink-footed Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Snow Goose, and Ross’s Goose.

Salem County had even more to offer, but I’ll blog about that in another post.  Until then,

Good Birding!

Greg

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