Wednesday 11 November 2015

Lost Goose Psychology

This juvenile White-fronted Goose arrived on Orcombe Point on October 16th 2013. It arrived on its own and remained faithful to this one field for a month. You could walk right up close to it and it would just carry on feeding.  Towards the end of November it suddenly, and inexplicably, switched routine and joined the Brent Goose flock at the southern end of the estuary. At some point during the winter it just vanished and that was that!
Why did is suddenly leave Orcombe? Who knows? I suspect it was for dietary needs but of course I can't be sure. I wouldn't want to second-guess a goose!
Why did it choose a stubble field on Orcombe when it could have wined and dined in style on Exminser Marshes which, let's face it, are custom-built for geese? Again I'm not going to try and get inside a goose's tiny brain.
The point of this post, if you haven't guessed already, is to raise some points about the Ridgway's Cackling Goose. It suddenly parted company with the Brent Goose flock, with which it had been associating for the best part of a month, and moved to the Countess Wear area. At this point some people (many I suspect) wrote it off as an escape. Those people are making a massive assumption that a Ridgway's Cackling Goose is happy and healthy chewing on and digesting a saline diet of eel grass, for long periods of time. A quick internet search reveals that Cackling Geese frequent marshes, rivers and ponds, and feed on various grasses, sedges and other aquatic vegetation. Maybe, just maybe, an eel grass diet was ok for a while but not sustainable. Perhaps dietary requirements eventually forced a switch?
One thing for sure is that the habitat it has chosen for now is absolutely fine for a Cackling Goose. It's not going to find a large flock of Cacklers so the company it keeps is really not of any relevance. You could argue that Mallards are pretty close in size to Cacklers and perhaps more attractive company than the relatively giant Canada Geese. And if it's happy with Mallards now, why on earth did it join Brents in the first place? Who knows? certainly not me! Whether several thousand miles lost or out of a pen it's lost, so what's it going to do?
I've read various accounts of Cackling Geese turning up in urban areas, and even taking food from bins, so even if it turns up on Exeter Quay eventually I wouldn't entirely write it off.
I'm still trying to remain open-minded about this bird and I'm frustrated by the apparent large number of goose psychologists in the uk, who seem to know very well what a lost vagrant goose 'should' do.
The purpose of this post isn't to make a case for it being wild. Of course it very well might not be. It's to try and be open-minded and persuade a few goose psychoanalysts that as much as I can't prove it's wild, they can't prove it's not.
As for it being accepted as a wild bird by the BBRC/BOURC - the words snowball and hell spring to mind!

1 comment:

  1. All good points Matt, let's hope if it moves on at the right time - whatever that is for a lost, lonely and therefore potentially depressed and psychologically damaged goose ;-)

    In terms of your White-front I think it moved with the Brents eastwards