Monday, February 2, 2015

Colusa National Wildlife Refuge: Get Goosed

You show me Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, and I will show you a Falcated Duck. It's true. I've looked for the bird three times, three different years, and seen it every time.  I know most people don't have that kind of luck.  This may sound all nerdy and braggy but I just experienced one of the worst dips in my life (more on that soon), so cut me some slack.

Anyways, I didn't crush a Falcated Duck this time, but there are a handful of other birds that use the refuge, as you can see.  This post is about those birds.

The Central Valley is the realm of the goose.  The popular and somewhat sought-after Ross's Goose winters in abundance. Remarkably, in the early 30's their entire population was thought to be down to 6,000 individuals or less, mostly as a consequence of market hunting. Obviously, they have since rebounded, with a total population around 2 million.

As I've said before, Ross's Goose is the cutest goose, especially when they're not blowing up with warts.

A favorite fact of mine to learn about a particular bird species is the longevity record, so here we go; the oldest known Ross's Goose was "collected" at the ripe age of 22 and a half.

Many Ross's Geese have a lot of warty growth at the base of their bill. Here I have documented a Rhinoceros Goose. FACT: The first known description of a Ross's Goose, years before being formally described by science, called it the "horned wavey".  I have no idea what a wavey is, of course.

Snow Geese are a bit more common.  "Lesser" Snow Goose is the expected type here in California.

One of my most long-lasting birding memories from my formative birding years was seeing huge flocks of Snow and Ross's Geese for the very first time.  It's really a spectacle, and it has never gotten old.

And now, I present to you The Best Snow Goose I Have Ever Seen.  Is this not the Goose of Ages?

This Snow Goose rolls with just one black primary on each wing.  This bird is pretty much the physical manifestation of not giving a fuck.  Who needs those black primaries anyway?  Why not just be hella white?

Here it is attacking a normal, black-winged Snow Goose.  All geese bow down to Snowy Snow Goose.

Cackling Geese are uncommon at Colusa, but investing any sort of mild effort this time of year should result in turning up a few.  It's not like there's a shortage of geese to look through.

Let's not forget the humble "specklebelly", as bird destroyers call them.  The Great Ornithologist Felonious Jive is known to hold this bird in especially high regard.  Could it be because of the pleasant slope of the culmen?  The slightly hoarse honk?  Or that time he had words with a photographer and was skull-bashed with a 800mm lens?

One of the highlights of the day was a pair of ostensible Snow X Greater white-fronted Geese, which Felonious Jive featured at 10,000 Birds this month.  Here is a link to another very similar bird, found on the internets.

Fine, fine, here is a nongoose.  No, not a mongoose, a nongoose.  Northern Pintails are elegant ducks, I don't think that statement requires any further elucidation.  Thanks to Abe Borker for organizing a check-in with the Falcated Duck, and for Officer John Garrett for providing safe passage and general bird policing services.  


  1. For a nongoose Northern Pintails are pretty goosey. I think they should be honorary geese.

  2. What do you call an old lady who loves to shop second hand? A Ross's Goose!
    (dunno if y'all have Ross in the bay area)

    Anyhow sweet shots man. It is crazy that you have puddles that draw yearly Tufted and Falcated Duck as well as Eurasian Wigeon. You got a little Smew pool hidden away somewhere too?

  3. No Smew but we do have a Common Scoter though.

  4. I like that whitey white Snow Goose. Bold move.

  5. Sweet shots of the geese, and the nongoose is pretty great too!