Dec 082014

Continuing on my recent theme of following up on sightings of banded birds, today’s story comes to us via Nunavut, Canada. One week ago, while scanning through the Snow Geese at the Brig portion of Forsythe NWR to see if a Ross’s Goose might be mixed in with the flock, a cacophony of voices from behind alerted me to new arrivals. If you’ve never heard a large flock of Snow Geese arriving or leaving, it is quite a thrill….one of those moments when everybody present simply gets quiet, listens, and smiles.

After the newcomers settled in and I returned back to scanning, I noticed that one of the birds had a neck collar. Just a week previously I spotted a banded Tundra Swan, and found out that she was banded on the north shore of Alaska and was returning back to NJ for at least the fifth year (see the previous post for details).

Banded Snow Goose; sighted at Forsythe NWR NJ, Dec. 1, 2014

Banded Snow Goose; sighted at Forsythe NWR NJ, Dec. 1, 2014

Having such a rewarding experience with reporting the Tundra Swan, I jumped on-line and submitted the sighting of Snow Goose TJ21, hoping to learn more about their travels. Today the response arrived, and indeed this bird also is a long-distance traveler. Snow Geese breed in the Arctic, and can belong to either the Lesser Snow Goose or Greater Snow Goose sub-species, although the two sub-species are essentially indistinguishable in the field. Snow Geese seen in the US can breed in coastal locations anywhere from Siberia to the far northern coasts of Alaska and Canada, and eastward to Greenland, but they tend to migrate fairly straight southward, not across the continent (unlike the Tundra Swans that winter in eastern US but breed in northern Alaska, traveling across the continent). Some Snow Geese winter as far south as Mexico. The Lesser Snow Goose predominates in Western and Central Canada, whereas Greater Snow Goose breeds in eastern Canada and Greenland. TJ21 is a female that was banded in August 2013, and in agreement with the geographical distribution of Snow Goose populations, she is a Greater Snow Goose. The banding site was 2,333 miles away, on Bylot Island (73.13333, -79.83333) in Nunavut, Canada, which is west of Baffin Bay. If you’re like me, you have little idea of where Bylot, Nunavut, or Baffin Bay are (other than that its somewhere between NYC and Santa’s home), so the following map should help.  A quick look at the map shows that, consistent with the expected migration pattern, she bred in eastern Canada, and traveled nearly directly southward ending up on the New Jersey coast.

It's 2,333 miles in a straight line from Bylot Island to Forsythe NWR.

It’s 2,333 miles in a straight line from Bylot Island to Forsythe NWR.

I’d love to know if she was ever re-sighted elsewhere, but that information was not provided. Apparently Snow Geese migrate quickly, with few stopovers.  And are all the Snow Geese at Forsythe Greater Snow Geese, or is there a mix of Lesser and Greater? Has anybody documented banded Lesser Snow Geese here in NJ?

 Posted by at 2:55 PM