Friday, March 11, 2005

Fields of Geese - HBNWR

This past weekend the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge (HBNWR) had an open house. On March 6th a trip went around the Loleta Bottoms looking at all the Aleutian Cackling Geese out in the fields, current counts have about 20,000 in the Humboldt area - about a third of the population. This impressive array is only here during migration periods as the waterfowl move north or south from Alaska to the Central Valley. Tucked in with these are five other species: the regular Weatern Canada Geese, the Brant that peak in Spring on the South Bay Eel Grass flats, Snow Goose, Ross' Goose and Greater White-fronted Geese. The last three are considered rare by Dr. Harris in his NW checklist, however with careful searching all were present at the goose showdown. Two Snow Geese were out on the refuge visable from the Headquaters (they have scopes there for scanning). A single Ross' Goose was in with Aleutians on the Loleta Bottoms visible from the Ocean Ranch access by the old reservation. Best of all 61 Greater White-fronted Geese were spotted off Copenhagen Drive in a flock size we normally only see flying over.

So, now is the time to check for passing waterfowl before they vanish for the summer. Rare in the winter neither of the three rare geese have ever been spotted during the breeding season, pretty obvious as they breed at or above the Arctic Circle. It's felt that the large flocks of Aleutians attract these odd stragglers and perhaps with time as the fields of geese continue to grow Doc will have to consider snow, Ross and white-front a bit more common!


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