Wild, I Was Absolutely Livid

We’ll come back to the Gerald the Gorilla reference.

A Greenland White-fronted Goose was found at Myerscough Quarry a couple of weeks ago by Ash Baines with a group of Eurasian Whitefronts. The latter have long since departed, but the Greenland bird has hung around and as it’s a site I cover quite regularly, and there may never be another one there I went along for a look this morning.

When I got to the canal bridge the GWFG wasn’t on the flooded pits, it was with Canada Geese by the canal. I thought this was great as the Canadas wouldn’t be flighty, and being just across from the towpath they would be used to people passing. I got that wrong. I managed this:

Before the Canadas spooked and flew off, taking the Whitefront with it. On the picture I got on my phone as they left you can see the GWFG is the bird at the top on its own trajectory.

Fortunately they only went as far as the nearest of the quarry pits, where I was able to observe them from a distance that they weren’t freaked out by. This also meant that getting records shots with phone to scope was challenging due to the combination of wind and distance, but here are a couple showing the clear size difference from the Canada Geese and the lone Greylag.

Following on from the Snow Goose earlier in the week this observation highlights some of the issues with ‘wild’ and ‘feral’ goose behaviour. It is known that birds escape from ornamental collections, and these will seek out other geese as they are sociable, flocking species. If they get in with feral species they will generally remain approachable. If they join up with wild geese they are likely to be as skittish as the carrier flock.

But as today’s sighting showed you can make too many assumptions. The Whitefront is surely a wild bird, whether it arrived with the European Whitefronts after being detached from its own kinds is unclear but it probably did and then jumped to the Canada flock.

Today it was the Canada Geese that behave liked wild geese, taking wing when there was a stretch of water between me and them I clearly wouldn’t have been able to cross. Other Canada Geese I have seen here have been ringed in Windermere, and are presumably the same birds that wander around among tourists in Bowness cadging bread or maybe helping themselves to ice creams.

In essence I suppose what I am saying is that whilst geese generally behave in a predictable fashion and it’s easy to know when they are ‘wild’ or not, there will always be exceptions particularly when young birds get orphaned or separated from their kind on migration.

If you haven’t seen the Nine O’Clock News sketch referred to in the the title you can see it on youtube. It’s well worth a look as it remains a classic.

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