I stepped into the garden this morning expecting mist. A mallard flew over. Bloody hell, a duck over my garden I thought. Before I had a chance to digest this, 5 Greylag Geese flew over. Double garden tick!
I have not seen the bird represented in this picture in my garden.
See, there were a fair few peeps at Buckenham Marshes yesterday, me included. To see birds and what not, but unbenkownst to me and probably most of the grumpy folks on the marsh (why is it that the more expensive your gear, the more attitude you have? Does it come with the free lenscloth on stupidly expensive optics?) there had been an alert on the twitchering pagers that the Lesser White-fronted Goose was back. Ohhhhhh, yyyyyes. Arguably the rarest escaped bird in the country that had spent a lot of time this winter in the Yare Valley marshes had returned from a week long exile and reappeared on the little beepy-lit-up-thingy, due to it being on Buckenham Marshes. There was a twitcherer there that was keen to point it out to those that passed.
And here it is!
a goose doing debatable
Another high quality image methinks. So there you have it. A rare goose.
But lets scan back and have a look at his mates…
another goose doing 'oh dear'
Yep, that’s right – it is a Greylag Goose! Which by default means that the LWFG (get me!) is not the wild bird at all! Why the hoo-ha? Why the report? Why the fuss? The twitcherer seemed ever so keen for it to be the (THE) bird but for what reason I cannot fathom – the very fact that it’s cohorts are feral means that it is not wild and really he and the original reporter should really have known this. There wasn’t a Bean Goose anywhere in the vicinity.
It does conform to the old two bird theory. It wasn’t until I read up on this situation beyond the provenance of the other bird, that I found out that this bird (the newly reported rare, but not at all rare bird) has been knocking about all winter with the Greylags and is considered by some to be a hybrid (with what I don’t know) so all the time that the supposedly rare bird has been knocking about there have actually been two birds, and I wonder how many people have seen this bird and taken it for the ‘real’ thing?
Anyway, the local Bean Geese may have recently left for the winter and perhaps taken their exotic Swedish friend with them ( if you don’t understand that geographical reference you will probably fall asleep by the time the explanation is finished) which does give the percieved wildness of the other bird a little boost, but enhances it’s overall dodgy provenance, sort of. Regardless, as far as I’m concerned, neither bird is tickable. But the whole exercise has been quite illuminating.
Firstly, the preamble. Before I get to the headlines I get to ramble on a bit about birds and stuff. It’s how this works. You should be used to it by now.
The Acle Straight is a regular feature of my life. In fact, it is a part of my ‘commute’. If you don’t know Norfolk, this will mean nothing to you but I am sure that a visit to an online map provider may elucidate why it is named thus. If you know Norfolk, you will know what I am taking about. If you live in Norfolk you may know that this is a double edged sword. The traffic can be a ball-ache, but the scenery can be seriously pretty. Sunrise in the middle of winter is pretty good. My ‘commute’, as it is difficult to call it that these days, can run up the Acle Straight if I choose and it is currently the middle of winter. It can look like this…
Geese doing straight
Those dots at the top of the (dodgy) picture are Pink-footed Geese. Neat, huh? This morning there was a lot of them. Several skeins of geese flying across the road as the sun came up. Several hundreds of geese flying in the sky when the sun came up all pinkey and purpley and orangey and bluey and lots of other coloureys. This is part of the reason why it is difficult to use the word ‘commute’ which has connotations in my head of stress, congestion, fumes, buildings and shaaatin’.
Anyhow, while I was in the patch this evening doing ‘work’ I happened to be outside and happened to hear a familiar sound in the sky. You’ve probably guessed what it was – Pink-feet! All over the show – patchtastic! Ticktastic! Bang-a-gong daddy-o!
I got out the camera and snapped away – but the results were not great. I believe that it’s referred to as a record shot.
This may sound a bit crazed, and to the outsider it is. However, the Lister Demon reared his head again tonight. I assure you dear reader, that this is a true story.
As I was going out this evening, to take Mrs Thing to the local out of town local mega-grocer, she brought my attention to the fact that there were a fair few Pink-footed Geese flying over the house. Good ear! Top stuff I thought, and I’m on the front step of the house, so I now have them on the Garden List. Kerching!
“Non-kerching matey!!” said the Lister Demon – the Garden List is running from the BACK GARDEN you fool! Since when have you been ticking birds in the front garden? Eh? Did you stare at the early autumn sky looking for raptors in the FRONT garden? Did you? NO! Do you sift through Tit flocks in the FRONT garden looking for rarities? No you don’t!!! These birds ARE NOT on the garden list – but by the devil they could be, couldn’t they? Couldn’t they? Well? What are you waiting for?
These voices in my head thoughts toook a millisecond to process, followed by a barked message to Mrs Thing and all of a sudden I was tearing through the house to get into the back garden so that I could have these Geese on the real garden list. Which I duly did, while a Tawny Owl sent mating calls out in the trees. Which was pretty cool in itself. It was then that I realised that my actions were on the verge of being some kind of lunatic obsessive person, and wondered what the hell I was doing. And had no answer, or the inclination to probe deeper. I have to admit it. A part of me is controlled by my lists of birds. Listers Anonymous anyone?
And I hadn’t taken my boots off either. Nevermind, better go and get some eggs then.
If you have been perusing the interweb regarding the Slaty-backed Gull today, you will see that although over a thousand people did not see the bird in Rainham, a couple of Belgians and a Norfolk Birder reportedly DID see the bird.
I can confirm that I am a Norfolk birder and I did see a rare gull today when other birders didn’t and here it is in all it’s Larid glory – lap it up kids…
If I was so inclined, Mrs Thing and I could have chuffed on down the A11 at stupid-o-clock heading for Rainham to go and join the throng literally staring at a rubbish tip – waiting for a bird to show up, but I’m so thankful that I don’t get overly exited about these things- just very interested. The official count on site was 1200 and it sounds like hell (and I pity the regular RSPB members that came for a nice-day-out looking at ducks) . I’m probably being quite annoying by saying that I found it highly amusing that the bird wasn’t seen today but doubt if anyone that went or cares will actually connect with this post. I was ‘working from home’ yesterday and was able to watch the whole thing unfold online during the course of the day, and noted many of the big listers that seemingly don’t have a day job getting in on the action, and the frustrated mass that have to hope that birds stay until the weekend piling into Essex today. It’s fairly likely to hang around, but unlikely to be a properly twitchable bird, so there will be a fair few vexed twitcherers revisiting Rainham over the next few weeks methinks, and a host of claims of the bird popping up here and there. Hey – how far is Yarmouth from Rainham as the Gull flies? Now, I wonder….
Did I mention a rare gull? Alright, it was ‘only’ an Iceland but there is still plenty of interest in it and actually the bird was brilliant, and showed for a short while. Obviously when seeing/watching a little cracker like this the bins rule, and the camera only came out when it settled hence the incredible quality image that you see above. Note the missing primary, the lovely white wing tips and the largely dark bill – absolutely cracking bird. You don’t see the detail? Ho hum.
Just to show that every photo I take is not completely shite, here is a snippet of a sky full of geese, like today and everything yeah?
Geese doing Pink Feet
Yes, it is Saturday night and I am doing this. Don’t worry – I’m not completely sad. Once this is done I’m off to clean my bins. Cracking.
There is a temptation in the Thing household this weekend to go for a cheeky twitch amongst the other stuff that has to be done that I won’t bore you with, and the question arises as to what and where and/or if. Being rather risk averse in these matters (i.e. we will not be chartering planes on the offchance of seeing a funny looking warbler on Fair Isle should it appear) the bird will need to be reasonably local and easier to find than a Waxwing somewhere off the Dereham Road ffs. The easy/obvious choices (for those that follow Birdguides – other rare bird services are available) are Northern Harrier at Thornham, American Wigeon at Salthouse/Cley or Iceland Gull at Loowstuf’. Thornham is like miles away right, so maybe not. The Iceland Gull (which I recently described to Mrs Thing as an obscenity-great-big-dirty-med) is not a bad call and the American Wigeon should be dead easy but maybe too easy? You see I have an objection to this bird dear reader, and don’t really want to go for it (here he goes again you say) even though I have never seen an American Wigeon and everyone likes ducks right?
Stick with it, there is some half cocked reasoning in here which makes a fair bit of sense to me.
Right then, there is a field in north Norfolk that is full of Brent Geese, which are evidently wild. If you look into this field you will also find that there are lots of Wigeon, which are evidently wild. If you look a bit more about this field you will find that there are often Barnacle Geese, a Ross’s Goose and if you are particularly unlucky a Barnacle x Canada cross (yuk!) and all of these birds are manifestly not wild. You still here? Now, I have in the past witnessed the tendency of escaped wildfowl to tow along with an evidently wild bird. In fact I once wrote a paper blogpost about it. My entire thesis argument is neatly summarised in this here photo.
Wood Ducks following a Wigeon
So there is, right, this field full of wildfowl that is largely wild with a fair old dollop of acknowledged escapees and then all of a sudden another bird appears (the American Wigeon no less) in the same field and it’s automatically assumed to be a genuine vagrant. Whoa! Hold on Mr Twitcher and get yer thinking hat on. Let’s get out the armchair philosophers favourite tool, Occams Razor (I can hear the groans already – or is it the snores?) and the simplest argument is more likely to hold the truth. Reason dictates that the American Wigeon is an escape that has latched onto the big flock of wild Wigeon that are with the wild Geese that are all being haunted by some wannabe wild-bird-escapees. Simple innit? The new bird, as far as I am concerned, has no more value than the Ross’s Goose that I banged on about a couple of days ago. Obviously if the new Wigeon is photo’d with a ring on it stating Made In Idaho, I’ll be right up there, no questions asked. But I doubt it.
Reckon oil goo loowstuff than.
Oh, and if you really are still reading this and wondering what on gawds earth the title has to do with anything that follows, it’s cockernee innit. Sceptic Tank – Yank. Geddit?
It’s winter, it’s Norfolk, and that means that geese are on the menu. All good, and very dramatic and really good birding. Shitting great flocks of Pink-feet all over the place, Bean geese, Brent and White-fronted by the side of the A149 and lots of little erm, specials amongst them. But of course all is not as it seems. Some of my occasional readers will know all that is to come in this diatribe, but some will not. Ho hum.
A couple of days ago, in fact last year, perhaps even in the last decade (blimey I could start a decade list! You wouldn’t let it lie etc etc) there were plenty of Brent Geese around Salthouse and Cley with reports of Pale Bellied, Black Brant and a Ross’s Goose amongst them. Last week/year/decade I picked out one of these half-tick subspecial thingies but none of the others. Today, with minimal effort, the Ross’s Goose was located, exactly where it was supposed to be. Here is an amazing photo of said goose.
It will be the white bit, yeah?
This goose has been reported on Birdguides and dutifuly written in the log in the Cley visitors centre a few times. Why? Seriously, why? Ross’s Goose is not on the British List unless I read the BOU website wrong earlier (the Caol Ila was very very nice earlier on but it was only an ickle bottle) and if you scan through some of the big lists on BUBO, you won’t find it included. Yes, you will find it on the UK400 British List, but I dare say that Peacock is on there too. No, this bird is a no go – as untickable as an unringed Bar-headed Goose in Barnet in the summer. So why bother telling anyone that it is there, and why bother looking for it (I ask myself more than anyone) why bother at al? No, unless this goose came to Norfolk with a ruddy great flock of Barnacle Geese that all had ‘my folks went to greenland and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ t-shirts on, it is nothing other than an escape and everyone should know this. But geese in Norfolk in the winter get people all excited. There is another goose that is bothering people in Cantley and from what I can see the consensus is that it may well be a Lesser White-fronted but has dodgy provenance and isn’t really a proper tick. But it does end up as a mega on Birdguides every day and can be seen on BUBO listings and on umpteen signatures on turdBirdforum as a new life tick. It does seem that there is a lot of justincasism amongst ardent listers going on. Alright, I saw a Ross’s goose and a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and didn’t find a Black Brant (whatever they are) and the life list goes up by a fat nada, and nor can I be arsed to go to Cantley just in case.
The funny looking Harrier is tempting mind you.
marshes and geese and stuff
Caveat – if it turns out that the Ross’s Goose is a proper bird (which it probably isn’t) I am quite happy to stand corrected and stick a big black mark in my little list book.