Sunday, March 25, 2012

Aspetuck Land Trust visitor from Greenland!

On March 15, I completed a solo survey of the Crow Hill and orchard sections of the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area, part of the Aspetuck Land Trust, where you likely know we are developing a conservation and management plan. While in the orchard I saw a group of Canada Geese in the farm fields surrounding it and noted that one of them had a yellow neck band with black lettering. This is not an infrequent event as I usually see at least a few birds like this every year, the vast majority inevitably leading back to birds banded in the immediate area in recent years.

However, this goose had a three letter code, not four, and held no digits - GNJ. That first letter had me intrigued immediately, and I snapped a photo of the bird and the band before all of them took off to fly further away.

As always, I went to when I returned from my day in the field to enter all of the pertinent data on my sighting and await word on its origin. That message came to me on Saturday while I was listening to one of the fantastic speakers during the COA Annual Meeting as my phone vibrated with a message all the way from Denmark. It was a delighful email from Tony Fox of the Department of Bioscience, Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, from the University of Aarhus. It turns out I had found one of his geese:

This was indeed a goose that we banded in Greenland, part of a project to mark Greenland White-fronted and Canada Geese in west Greenland over several years, and your observations are of great interest because as you will see, this individual was reported from Maine in September 2011, so we are delighted with your resighting to confirm that it continued further south and is still alive as the birds begin their journeys northwards!

The goose was first captured and banded on a lake simply known as Lake F to the catching team (very few lakes in this area have Greenlandic names) which is at 67°06’56"N 50°30’10"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. On that occasion, it was banded with a yellow collar, a yellow tarsus band bearing the same engraved combination and a metal Copenhagen Zoological Museum leg band. It was an adult male captured on 23 July 2008, part of a catch of 13 adults but no juveniles.

Tony and I exchanged some more emails during the afternoon (or night for him after teaching undergrads all day) as I sent him more details and a photo of the goose and he told me more about the ongoing studies and research. You can find much of the information from the last few years here:

If you navigate to the "Recoveries and resightings of banded Greenland geese in 2011/12" at the top of the page, and scan down the page at that link, look for "GNJ". That is the goose I spotted and its history. You will also see a little "mugshot" of it, the goose being swabbed for avian flu, and it being held as well. This guy, at least four years old, has had quite a life! Here is a simple look at where he was originally banded compared to where I found him on a Google Earth map...

Whew, I get tired just looking at how far that is - and it is 1,987 miles! I cannot imagine how many more it has covered with stops in Maine and elsewhere over the years, flying back and forth each season.

The reasons to protect Trout Brook Valley keep coming lately, and this is another ironclad argument. Even the "common" species we see so frequently that we hardly notice may be depending on some of our lands for food, rest, and safety before or after a long journey, or during critical breeding times. Many people tend to think of Canada Geese as almost background noise in the bird world or pests as they leave their mark on golf courses and wander around small ponds and yards. Most of the species do not spend their lives loafing about the clubhouse, and the farm fields owned by the Aspetuck Land Trust and state of Connecticut have served this visitor (and likely other foreign friends) very well. Here's hoping I have more to report to Tony soon, and that someone else picks up our friend here on his journey back to the north.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

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