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Finally - a Greater White-fronted Goose and a Northern Shrike

Published October 23, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Greater White-fronted Goose, Northern Shrike, American Kestrel, American Tree Sparrow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher

Up until today, I've had a big "hole" in my list of birds seen for this year.  To date, I've seen 312 birds for the year, 309 of them have been in New York State.  BUT - I had yet to find a Greater White-fronted Goose, which is a bird that should have been on my list since spring.  It was seen and reported several times but I missed it each and every time.  I've been getting a little anxious for this bird as the fall migration window of opportunity would be closing soon.

I was due a day off and, after taking care of a few critical work items, I headed up to Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to "hunt" for this year's nemesis. I had been out that way just the evening before because I had a family function relatively close.  I had checked a few spots where they had been seen in years past, but I didn't find anything.  I only had a little bit of time that evening, so I felt a more thorough search was needed as there were geese.  There were LOTS of geese at a couple of locations.

So, with much of the day before me, I went to every place out that way where I could find flocks of Canada geese, knowing a Greater-white Fronted would tend to mix in with them.  Finally, at one of the spots I had been to just the night before, I found one!  I couldn't believe it - and then I found a second one very close to that guy. I looked away and then looked back - just to check myself and to be sure I wasn't dreaming it up - but no, there was the gray neck, the lack of the black "chin strap" that a Canada Goose has, and there was the lovely pinkish/orange bill with a white oval of feathering between the bill and the gray face.  They were very obviously Greater White-fronted Geese. Finally.

With that off my list fairly early, I spent some time at this spot (Ringneck Marsh) and did a little more birding there, finding my first of the season, American Tree Sparrows mixed in with a flock of Juncos, and a Song Sparrow.  Other passerines (song birds) nearby were Black-capped Chickadees, both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, and a Northern Flicker.

I drove around the back of that spot onto Sour Springs Road where I was very happy to see a Northern Shrike.  I usually see these guys when there's snow on the ground, so I was surprised one was there this early. Later on, a check of the BOS date guide showed October 16th as the early date, so it was within range, it just seemed very early to me.

The shrike flew off just as I clicked off a photo.  Soon, a couple of birding friends, Karen and Jim, pulled-up.  I showed them the photo and and we discussed and then dismissed the possibility of the shrike being the much less often seen Loggerhead Shrike. Finally, the shrike returned and we all enjoyed scope views of it.

Having had enough excitement for one day, I headed back home, very elated I finally had a productive goose chase instead of my usual WILD goose chase!
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Two Greater White-fronted Geese - they're hard to see but they're both in the center of the photo - one has its head tucked and the other is up.
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Horned Grebe
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Northern Shrike
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After the shrike returned, he was visible but a lot further out
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American Tree Sparrow - a sure sign that winter is on its way!
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American Kestrel
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Immature Bald Eagle
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Immature Bald Eagle
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Red-tailed Hawk
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Red-tailed Hawk
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Red-tailed Hawk
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Belted Kingfisher
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White-breasted Nuthatch