Sunday, 19 February 2017

More from the Fylde goose flocks

I don't think it's an over exaggeration to say that it's been a spectacular year for goose watching on the Fylde. The winter of 2016/17 has been a goose watchers dream, with lots of scarcer species in amongst the large flocks of pink-feet. Without doubt the most exciting development has been the numbers of European white-fronts in the area, reflecting what appears to be a good year for the species elsewhere in the UK. The icing on that particular cake is the presence of an adult red-breasted goose which is clearly associating with the white-fronts, giving it great credentials as a genuine wild bird. European white-fronts are one of the classic carrier species for red-breasted goose, and a bird accompanying them during a large influx is probably as good as it gets.

There were at least 20 European white-fronts in this flock, and you can count at least six around the red-breasted goose in this photo alone. Elsewhere we saw several other birds in other flocks.

There has also been a relatively large influx of tundra and taiga bean geese this winter. We didn't see any today, but they are still around, and there is also a pale-bellied brent goose and a Greenland white-front in the area.

This melanistic pink-foot caught my attention near Pilling.

Two more white-fronts, these near Pilling.

Perhaps less convincing are the credentials of this bird. This is the blue phase lesser snow goose which arrived at Marshside just before Christmas. When all that you could see was its head a mile distant with 2000 pink-feet, it looked pretty convincing, but then it left the pink-feet and joined up with greylags. Worse still, when they moved to the Fylde, their preferred feeding areas were fields adjacent to an ornimental pond at the entrance to a caravan park, where they allow approach as close as 30m. Still, none of this proves that it is an escape, just as associating with European white-fronts doesn't prove that the red-breasted goose is wild. The red-breasted goose simply looks and feels more wild because it is associating with the right crowd and has so far not disgraced itself. In the case of the snow goose, it may just be that a wild bird has latched onto a flock of feral greylags which are fairly tame, and therefore the snow goose is more approachable than it would be in a flock of 2000 wild and timid pink-feet.

It's always a pleasure to see wild swans, particularly when they include a few of the now scarce Bewick's. Hard to believe that 30 years ago you could go to Martin Mere and see 800 Bewick's, but those days are long gone.

These birds were near Cockersands Abbey.

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