Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A legless friend and some pitfalls amongst the geese

The long staying Caspian gull was showing well on Ainsdale beach again this morning. Now in its 2nd winter (or 3rd calendar year) plumage it's a smart looking bird. It's lost part of a leg since I last saw it back in September last year, due to becoming entangled in fishing line, but it seems to be healthy enough and coping well. Hopefully it will remain at Ainsdale beach until it reaches maturity allowing those of us who don't get to see many Caspian gulls the opportunity to get to grips with the full range of plumages at close range.

On nearby Downholland Moss this afternoon I came across a couple of flocks of pink-footed geese, each with well over 1000 birds. One of the flocks I managed to get quite close to, and was particularly struck by how variable the species is. I've noticed before the large variaton in size of these geese, but their plumages are equally as variable. Some are pale grey, others are chocolate brown, some are heavily barred, others are not. Bill patterns vary considerably and some have white at the base of the bill whilst others don't. There was even a leucistic pink-foot in the flock and one with so much white around the base of the bill that I thought at first that it was a white-fronted goose.

Notice how dark the front two birds are. The one on the left even appears to have a band on its bill. Tundra bean goose? Nope, pink-foot.

Surely a juvenile Eurasian white-front? No, the head shape is wrong, the leg colour is wrong and it's too pale. It's a pink-foot.

Notice how some of the geese have dark backs, others have grey backs.

The leucistic bird really stood out in the sunshine.

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