Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Color marked Canada Geese in Caribou from Greenland

Its no secret that alot of Canada Geese stop in central Aroostook county in the fall. By my most recent unscientific survey, there are currently about 18,000+ Canada Geese taking advantage of the newly harvested grain and potato fields in northern Maine. The origins of all of these geese is something that I've always wondered about.

Recently, some area birders have been reporting a few rarer species among the Canada Goose flocks including three Greater White-fronted Geese, a few Snow Geese and a single Cackling Goose.

On Monday, I was able to spend some time observing one of the bigger flocks in the Caribou area. I used my spotting scope to scan though the geese...looking for a one of these rarer species. Though I didn't turn up any of less common types amongst the hungry horde, I did find five Canada Geese that were sporting bright yellow neck collars with three letter alpha codes on them. The geese were feeding in some barley stubble and with a little bit of work and patience I was finally able to discern the codes on each of the neck collars...GLF, GLJ, GLV, GLZ, GNA.

Yesterday, I called Maine's head waterfowl biologist Brad Allen in Bangor and inquired if he was aware of anyone color marking geese in the region. Brad recalled a message he recieved earlier in the summer from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that alerted biologists in the east to a marking program in Greenland. Brad sent me the information and I contacted the program leader Tony Fox in Denmark. Tony's response this AM confirmed that the geese here in Caribou were part of a small population of Canada Geese that breed in western Greenland! Tony also sent along a link to lots of information about the marking project and the interesting discoveries they have made over the years.
With permission, I'm inserting some of Tony's response here:
"...You cannot imagine how thrilled we are to receive this news! These birds were banded as part of a project to mark Greenland White-fronted and Canada Geese in west Greenland in 2008, and whilst we have had a resighting of one of the White-fronted Geese back in Scotland, I am very pleased to tell you that you are the very first to report Canada Geese from your side of the Atlantic, so we are absolutely delighted at the news. The birds that you have reported were ringed at a Lake simply known as Y to the catching team (very few lakes in this area have Greenlandic names) which is at 67°06’56”N 50°35’17”N in an area known as Isunngua, immediately north of the airport at Kangerlussuaq in west Greenland. This has been a study area for our investigations on and off over many years. Obviously, I cannot provide any more details about the birds as these are the first resightings, but I can tell you that GLJ, GLV and GNA were all males and GLZ and GNA females at capture, and all were at least in their second summer or older. The fact that they are associating may suggest that they are siblings or are related in some other way, but it sounds like they were non-breeders in 2008. Certainly this flock contained no goslings at the time of the drive, and it is usually the case that non-breeders dissociate from the big flocks of families (although this is not always the case). Whilst we have had five Canada Geese from this area of Greenland shot in new Brunswick, yours are the first records from northern Maine of our geese, so this is a very exciting extension to our knowledge of where these birds stage on the way down to the winter quarters. Needless to say, if you have time to keep an eye on these birds, we would be extremely interested to see how long they stay and whether any other collars turn up in this area. ....We have absolutely no objection to all the blog posting imaginable - the more folk are aware of these geese, the more likely we are to be able to monitor their progress! ..."
Exciting stuff! Keep and eye out for these birds!
Check out the links to the Greenland goose project here:

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