Sunday 27 December 2020

A goose for Christmas?

A goose for Christmas? Why not?

Two days late - but that doesn't matter.

With my patch year-list perilously close to 180, Janet and I set off this morning with the intention of a walk around by the farm in search of Yellowhammer - a species that has evaded me all year. We didn't reach the farm - a flock of geese stopped us in our tracks.

Some of the flock

There was a huge flock of Pink-footed Geese in the 'Front Field' at Druridge - "there must be something different among that lot" I said, and we pulled over - scope out. It was a bitterly cold wind, cold enough to bring a tear to the eye! 

I started scanning through the geese, which Janet estimated numbered about 2000, until I got onto a different bird, with thick orange legs and I immediately thought Bean goose - but which one? I went to get Janet and my phone from the car and lost the bird, another 300 geese arrived. Another 25 minutes of searching through them, I found it again, I got better, but brief views of the orange legs (most definitely orange, I've seen Pink-foots with  'orangey' or 'orangish' legs - these were pure orange - and thick.), head and bill shape and bill colour. The bird looked thick-necked and a bit more bull-headed than the pinks but the colour on the bill was definitely more orange than pink and it extended down to the gape. I was pretty-sure this was a Taiga Bean Goose and attempted some digi-scoped shots just before the bird sat down and promptly went to sleep with it's head under it's wing. I put the news out on the chance I was right.

Orange-legged bird on right (digi-scoped)
Orange-legged bird at top - note thick orange legs but 'thick neck, bull-head'
Orange-legged bird left of central group, but again, looks thick-necked. Not so obvious on this pic but colour in bill was more orange than pink, but bill not the right shape for Taiga Bean

Graham Sorrie arrived and it was still asleep and then the Farooqi boys arrived. The bird woke up and Jonny got straight to work on it, he thought that the bill-shape didn't look right and neither did the tail, which was very much a 'Pink-footed' tail. Taiga Bean was ruled out and were looking at an odd Pink-foot with very orange legs, a shorter, thicker neck and orange in the bill but everything else about seemed to fit Pink-foot.

Jonny started scanning the flock and soon picked out another orange-legged bird, this time it was a Bean - but of the Tundra variety. The bird came very close but my photos were rubbish - this is the best I could do. 

Tundra Bean 'arse-on' showing tail pattern and thick orange legs.

Everyday is a school-day when you're birding. A quick look at photos on the Macaulay Library when I got home confirmed the bill-shape and tail were wrong for Taiga Bean, but an interesting bird nonetheless. 

I did get a walk around the farm this afternoon without a Yellowhammer to be seen. 

It was a nice walk though, in the late afternoon sunshine. The sky looked ominous a couple of times but it stayed dry.


Six Mistle Thrush were in the fields by the Coal Road and both Redwings and Fieldfare in the Hawthorns by the farm. Near the Preceptory, two Water Pipits were feeding in a wet corner next to the Dunbar Burn, before flying off, calling. Presumably two of the birds from the nearby Budge fields.

Fieldfare at High Chibburn
The Budge fields, with a flock duck, and the dunes from the 'other side'

There was still some light when I got back to the car, so I had a look on the sea. Gulls were pouring in from the land to roost on the sea, Black-headed and Common, but as they settled I scanned through and counted at least nine Mediterranean Gulls amongst them - there could've been many more as gulls were still arriving but he light was going. I estimated 3200 in total by the time I left.

Tundra Bean Goose takes the year-list to 179. Tomorrow I shall be mostly scoping the chimney pots and TV aerials at Widdrington Village for Collared Doves. 

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