Here's what the THE BIRDING COMMUNITY E-BULLETIN of a year ago has to say about Barnacle geese. I've included the whole post or scroll down to BARNACLE GOOSE CONSIDERATIONS a quarter of the way down.
This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed as a service for
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On 4 February, two Pink-footed Geese were discovered on the Connecticut
River at Enfield, Connecticut. . They were in a large flock of a thousand
or more Canada Geese.
The species nests in Greenland, Iceland, and northern Norway (Spitsbergen).
A migratory species, Pink-footed Geese winter in the British Isles and in
northwestern Europe. There are about 15 records for Pink-footed Goose in
the U.S. and Canada, mostly within the last 15 years. The first records
were from the 1980s, and the most have been during spring and fall
migration from Newfoundland and Quebec, although there are records from as
far south as Pennsylvania and Delaware.
The two birds found last month in Connecticut were preceded by the first
sighting in the state in 1998. That year, a Pink-footed Goose showed up at
the Stearns Farm in Mansfield, where it remained from 21-25 March.
As with so many potentially vagrant waterfowl, the question of origin (wild
vs. escaped captive) arose with the appearance of the 1998 bird. At that
time, the overwhelming evidence suggested that the bird was of wild origin.
The most compelling evidence was that the fact that the species was very
rarely kept in captivity (with only about 30 known individuals to be in
captivity throughout North America at the time).
The overall case for the wild origin of Pink-footed Geese occurring in
North America is boosted by information available through the Royal Society
for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). That organization claims that in the
1960s there were only 50,000 Pink-footed Geese wintering in the UK; now
there are more than 200,000.
The two Pink-footed Geese in Suffield and Enfield, Connecticut stayed for
about a week entertaining a number of local and visiting birders from far
You can view photos of the birds here, taken by James P. Smith:
BARNACLE GOOSE CONSIDERATIONS
On a similar theme, Barnacle Geese continue to be seen with increasing
frequency in recent years, primarily in fall and winter from Atlantic
Canada south to the northeastern U.S. Last fall, for example, a Barnacle
Goose appeared in Connecticut, and another bird showed up in January on
Long Island, New York. As was described for Pink-footed Goose, the issue of
"origin" arises whenever Barnacle Geese are found in North America.
Recent information, however, delivered through the Ontario Bird Records
Committee would seem to shed some light on the possible origin of at least
some of these birds. A Barnacle Goose shot by a hunter last fall near
Hawkesbury, Ontario, (east of Ottawa along the Ottawa River) was positively
a wild bird since it was originally banded in Scotland. Steve Percival of
Durham in the United Kingdom reported the banding details to Jean-Francois
Giroux of the University of Quebec in Montreal. Percival wrote, "Excellent
to hear from you and particularly regarding this exciting recovery. It was
a bird that we ringed on Islay on 9 November 2004 as a juvenile (i.e., 1st
winter) male, on the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart on Islay, Scotland
(55.83 degrees N, 6.34 degrees W). Of the many thousand that have now been
ringed in this population [in Scotland] I think that this is the first to
have been recovered in Canada (and I think anywhere in N America)."
In addition to this most recent band recovery, one of two Barnacle Geese
shot at Ladle Cove, Newfoundland in the fall of 1981 was bearing a band
placed on its leg in July 1977 on Spitsbergen, Norway!
These two banding records clearly support the notion that not all Barnacle
Geese in North America can be escapes!
TORONTO GLASS-AND-LIGHT BREAKTHROUGH
Another breakthrough in Canada came when the Toronto (Ontario) City Council
unanimously adopted a resolution on 31 January that will help protect
migratory birds from colliding with glass windows. This action resulted in
the improved control of the lighting on buildings, to increased public
education, and even bird rescue efforts. The resolution specifies that for
all new buildings in Toronto, "the needs of migratory birds be incorporated
into the Site Plan Review process with respect to facilities for lighting,
including floodlighting, glass and other bird-friendly design features."
The Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), a Toronto-based charitable
organization, has been working to address the issue of bird collisions with
structures since 1993. It was the first organization of its kind in the
world; similar organizations have since sprung up in Chicago and New York.
FLAP, the City of Toronto, and several other entities have formed a
partnership known as Lights Out Toronto. This April, in time for spring
migration, the Lights Out Toronto partnership will launch its public
awareness campaign on how Torontonians can prevent the deaths of thousands
of migratory birds by simple acts, such as turning lights off. (This will
also greatly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and save
millions of dollars each year.) Mayor David Miller and the entire Toronto
City Council should be congratulated for their leadership role in migratory
To view the full report on the part of the Council's Planning and
Transportation Committee, see this site:
IVORY-BILLED NEWS AND VIEWS
On 10 February, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology announced that there
have been "about six possible visual encounters" of the Ivory-billed
Woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas and "another 10 instances" of the
bird's double-knock and "kent" calls since teams began searching in
November 2005. The possible encounters were reported by team members,
birders, hunters, and refuge staff. In one case it was thought that there
might have been two birds observed in flight. The report said that "a nice
series of 'kent' calls" was picked up by an automatic recording device
strapped to a tree.
None of these "possible encounters" conclusively confirm the existence of
the woodpecker, of course. However, when these various encounters are taken
together, "there is a very interesting pattern - there has been a flurry of
encounters from a couple of key areas," according to Ken Rosenberg, the
director of Conservation Science of the Lab and member of the Recovery
Team. The search team is using this recent information to further guide its
work in the Big Woods.
You can read the full Cornell Lab announcement at:
Practically concurrent with these recent "possible encounters," a critical
account of recent Ivory-billed Woodpecker reports was published in the
January issue of THE AUK, journal of the American Ornithologists' Union.
The article, written by noted woodpecker authority, Jerome Jackson, raises
some interesting questions about the recent sightings, and attempts to
address them. You can read the article for yourself:
In the meantime, the search, the hope, and the dialogue continue.
TREASURE TROVE OF NEW SPECIES FOUND
An amazing discovery was announced last month, when it was reported that a
'Lost World' of wildlife species was found in Indonesia, in western New
Guinea. The announcement described an expedition to one of Asia's most
isolated jungles that found several dozen new species of frogs,
butterflies, flowers and birds.
Bruce Beehler, a Conservation International ornithologist who led the
spectacular expedition, reported simply that "The first bird we saw at our
camp was a new species." The 11-member team of U.S., Indonesian, and
Australian scientists entered the Foja Mountains in December. The isolated
area covers more than two million acres of old-growth tropical forest.
Besides discovering a new species of honeyeater, other amazing discoveries
included the first photos of a male Berlepsch's Six-Wired Bird of Paradise
and the first photos of the Golden-fronted Bowerbird. Equally astounding
was what may be the largest rhododendron flower on record - almost six
inches across - along with more than 20 new frogs and four new butterfly
Beehler said there did not appear to be any immediate conservation threat
to the area, which actually enjoys the status of a wildlife sanctuary. "No
logging permits are given to this area, there is no transport system - not
a single road," Beehler added.
For lots more details, see this summary from BirdLife International:
BOBOLINKS IN BOLIVIA
There still are some exciting discoveries to be made, sometimes involving
fairly common bird species.
Closer to home, disturbing population declines for Bobolinks in North
America have been observed. These are certainly due in part to changes in
land use on the breeding grounds, yet threats on the Neotropical wintering
grounds are virtually unknown. It is known, however, that Bobolink roosts
occur in tall grasses or rice fields; they always roost in areas inundated
Rosalind Renfrew and a team of other researchers currently working in an
area near Trinidad, Bolivia believe that they may have discovered the
largest single winter concentration of Bobolinks ever recorded. The roost
was originally thought to contain 15-20,000 Bobolinks, but a more
systematic effort revealed that the roost size was probably closer to 60,000.
These initial findings in Bolivia may lead to a full-scale study to learn
more about Bobolink wintering ecology. Farmers in eastern Bolivia have
known about the Bobolinks for some time. (Indeed, reports indicate the
birds are so abundant that they are considered pests by rice growers.)
Still, previous to this discovery, few ornithologists even thought that
Bobolinks wintered in Bolivia.
See here for more background from the Vermont Institute of Natural Science:
NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE SYSTEM AWARDS
The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation will honor National Wildlife Refuge System supporters and
employees later this month with the presentation of the 2006 National
Wildlife Refuge System Awards.
These awards recognize exceptional contributions made by refuge volunteers
and employees in protecting the Refuge System. The official presentation
will take place in conjunction with the 71st North American Wildlife and
Natural Resources Conference, running from 22 March through 25 March in
The awards and recipients will be:
Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award goes to Glenn Carowan,
Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, MD/VA.
Refuge System Employee of the Year goes to John Schomaker, Division of
Conservation Planning, Great Lakes-Big Rivers Region, Minnesota.
Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Tim Anderson, Seal Beach National
Wildlife Refuge, California.
Friends Group of the Year Award goes to Friends of Great Swamp National
Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey.
To learn more about the awards and the work of each of the worthy
recipients, start here:
REFUGE PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON
The 2005 Refuge Photo Contest entries closed at midnight 15 December 2005.
Well over 1,400 refuge images were submitted, undeniable evidence that
refuges are great places to visit and that a great many photographers and
other outdoor enthusiasts are out there experiencing our country's varied
The four judges - Shawn Carey, Maria Cecil, Karen Hollingsworth, and Clay
Taylor - picked out over 220 of the best images and are finalizing the top
choices as this is being written.
Right now, you can examine the thumbnails of 220+ eye-catching
semi-finalist entries that will be included in the NWRA Refuge Image
Library. (The NWRA Refuge Image Library is designed to be an online
searchable gallery of images - available for free public use - taken at
National Wildlife Refuges.) Click here to access the semi-finalist thumbnails:
The winners will be announced on 14 March 2006, the 103rd anniversary of
the establishment of the first National Wildlife Refuge. (Top prizes
include some fine Swarovski Optik products, Technologies TrekPod, and a
number of Houghton Mifflin field guides.) You can check back at the site
after 14 March for the names of the winners and to view their images.
We will announce when the next refuge-photo contest is launched for 2006!
WETLANDS LOAN ACT (WLA) AND STAMP EFFORTS
In late February, there was a meeting of over 40 conservationists at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to discuss the joint effort to
pass a new Wetlands Loan Act and promotion of the sale of the Migratory
Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp.
The proposed Wetlands Loan Act, H.R. 4315, is modeled after the original
1961 Act. It would authorize an advance in Stamp revenues to acquire new
National Wildlife Refuge fee-title properties and easements amounting to
$400 million over the next 10 years. For the WLA to be truly successful,
ways will have to be devised to sell more Stamps to those not currently
buying them. Waterfowl hunters have been doing all of the heavy lifting in
this regard for over 70 years; the group gathered at Minnesota Valley NWR
discussed how the burden might be shared and how the WLA could make a real
difference in bird and wetland conservation.
We have discussed this before, in the September and October 2005 E-bulletins:
We also promise to touch on this subject again in future E-bulletins.
The movement against the Saemangeum project - a 33-kiolometer seawall and
"reclamation" effort in South Korea - became a national effort in 1998 when
environmental groups and religious leaders became fully aware of the
destruction it would cause to not only the environment, but also the 25,000
people whose economic livelihoods depend on the estuary for fish and
aquiculture. Bird conservationists have joined to stop the reclamation of
40,100 hectares of tidal flats and shallows that are vitally important for
an estimated 500,000 waterbirds annually. The Saemangeum estuary supports
30 waterbird species in internationally important concentrations, including
the globally-threatened Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Spotted Greenshank,
Black-faced Spoonbill, and Saunders's Gull.
The project is already $400 million over-budget and will require at least
another $4.3 billion to complete. The project was recently allowed to move
forward when the Seoul administration's effort to halt the project was
overturned on appeal. The Korean Supreme Court began hearing the Saemangeum
case in mid-February.
This is perhaps the biggest environmental case in Korea's history. Timing
is crucial, given that all but 2.7 of the 33-kilometer seawall has already
been built. The Ministry of Agriculture wants to complete the initial
seawall in April, which will severely impact bird populations migrating
along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
For updates in English on the Saemangeum project and the numerous globally
threatened bird species it will affect, you can visit the sites of the
Korean Federation for Environmental Movement-FoE Korea:
and Birds Korea:
THE PRAIRIE POTHOLE JOINT VENTURE (PPJV) IMPLEMENTATION PLAN AVAILABLE
The Prairie Pothole Joint Venture (PPJV), established in 1987 as one of the
original six priority Joint Ventures under the North American Waterfowl
Management Plan, is one of the Joint Ventures that has served as a model of
a successfully integrated bird-conservation partnership. The region covers
parts of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The PPJV
unveiled its new website last year. Its Implementation Plan now contains
ambitious sub-plans for not only waterfowl, but also for shorebirds,
waterbirds, and landbirds. Every concerned bird conservationist should at
least take a look:
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jane <[log in to unmask]> wrote: That's what I get for relying on anonymous sources. Thanks for
looking it up.
MARC has always been pretty conservative, though (and this I do know
from directt personal experience!), so it's interesting that they're
willing to accept BGoose records.
Allan Strong wrote:
> The Massachusetts records committee does post its decisions on line, and
> it looks like they have accepted 4 Barnacle Goose records in the last
> +/- 5 years (and a 5th report was not accepted). Although I serve on
> the VT records committee, I must admit I don't know what our criteria
> are for assessing the origin of individuals that have a history of
> presence in captivity. Some, obviously are filtered out immediately
> (Ringed Turtle Dove, White-tailed Hawk, etc.), but others are more
> difficult to assess.
> At 01:33 PM 3/28/2007 -0500, you wrote:
>> For whatever it's worth, my understanding is the very conservative
>> Massachusetts records committee is also firmly opposed to accepting
>> Barnacle goose. I've been told that one of the reasons is that these
>> birds are widely kept in private -- often illegal and therefore
>> unbanded -- collections of exotics and frequently escape.
>> (Can't personally verify either of the above, just repeating what I've
>> been told by more knowlegeable people.)
>> I wonder about the issue of feather wear as a determinant. I would
>> think the presence of a particular pattern would be a pretty good
>> indication that the bird is a recent escape, but unless I'm
>> undereducated on the subject, I don't see how its absence can prove
>> it's not, since over time, the damaged feathers would be replaced, and
>> even the behavior would become more "wild" after a couple of years of
>> associating with a wild flock, wouldn't it?
>> If the default assumption of records committees is that a Barnacle is
>> an escape unless proven otherwise, is the only acceptable proof of
>> wild origin then a band recovery?