The history of Barnacle Geese in northeastern North America reveals an
array of plausible wild occurrences and likely escapes (some well
documented). At present, according to a recent Connecticut Avian Records
Committee report, Barnacle Goose populations have been increasing in
Greenland and the captive population has been declining so it seems
likely that many, even most, late September to mid-April reports involve
birds of wild origin. However, Barnacle Goose is still present in aviary
collections, and there have been recent sightings on off-color dates.
These include a bird in Machias, Maine from July to September 2004, and
11 August 1997 from Essex, Connecticut.
I am enough of a birding graybeard to remember an infamous 16-year-old
record of an escaped pair of Barnacle Geese that produced four offspring
and split the winter of 1990 to 1991 at Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
and Osterville, Massachusetts. These birds were traced to a summer 1990
release at Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick. Such a record puts one off
implicit trust for subsequent observations for quite a long time.
For what it's worth, recent treatment of Barnacle Goose reports has been
fairly gentle by regional records committees. Connecticut still uses a
tag of "origin uncertain", an improvement over "not accepted due to
questionable origin", and the Massachusetts committee has accepted most
reports over their last three reports.
The Vernon/Hinsdale goose has both of its hind toes, no avicultural
bands, and has been seen in a flock of geese with another tundra nesting
species, Cackling Goose. The recent occurrence of five Greenland Greater
White-fronted Geese touring the Connecticut valley from Northfield,
Massachusetts to Charlestown, New Hampshire also is suggestive of the
destination of some of the geese passing through the region over the
last two weeks. There's a pretty good chance this bird is wild,
unfortunately there is always room for skepticism. However, it may take
a while for records committees to become comfortable with Common and
Ruddy Shelducks, Red-crested Pochards, and, especially, Greylags (even
Walter Ellison & Nancy Martin
23460 Clarissa Rd
Chestertown, MD 21620
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