R-r-r-ing! Is that the telephone? At 6:30 in the morning I was still in bed.
I stumbled to the next room where the telephone was. John Wyatt was on the phone. He said that possibly a Ross’s goose, with about 25 Canada geese, was out on the Penobscot River near his house in Winterport.
I jumped into my clothes and grabbed my binoculars. My sister Betty was visiting.
I shouted, “I’m going to Winterport to see a rare bird!”
Betty said, “Can I go, too?” And off we went to Winterport.
After a quick 10-minute drive, there it was. I jumped up and down and said, “Yippee! A new bird for my Maine list.”
Since 1978 I have been keeping a list of all the birds I have seen in Maine. It is unusual for me to add new birds to the list. I have 336 species on my Maine list now.
A Ross’s goose is like a snow goose but much smaller, about the size of a mallard. Both geese are white with black on the outer end of their wings.
The differences are size and coloration on the head and bill.
A Ross’s goose head is nearly all white, while the snow goose has a yellow-orange head.
Also, the bills are different. The Ross’s goose bill is small and orange-pink. The snow goose’s bill is a similar color but larger and has “lips” — black edges on the bill.
Ross’s geese nest in the Arctic and migrate to California and Texas in fall and winter.
The female does all the work incubating the eggs, while the male stays nearby and guards his mate. When the female leaves to find food, she covers the eggs with her down feathers. Down feathers keep the eggs warm and hidden from predators.
Ross’s geese feed on grasses, sedges — a grasslike plant with triangular stems that usually grow in wet ground, grain and legumes — plants of the pea family with seeds in pods. Young goslings leave their nest within 24 hours and can walk and find food.
Christmas Bird counts are happening in the coming weeks:
The Orono-Old Town count is set for Saturday, Dec. 18, and Bangor-Bucksport is Saturday, Jan 1. If you want to be part of this nationwide census by counting birds at your feeder or driving a route, call Fields Pond Nature Center at 989-2591 to connect with your local compiler.
For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.