Every Which Way But Goose

I’m usually fairly confident at identifying the bird species encountered at Earlswood Lake.  

It seems to provide a home for a regular population of the usual Mute Swans, Moorhens, Coots, Cormorants and a couple of Great Crested Grebes (etc.), but this time I was greeted by the appearance of an unusual bird.

Dabbling around with a number of Canada Geese was a bird I hadn’t seen before – It looked similar to the others, but it had a few significant differences: notably beak colour, head patterning and proportion of white on its breast and bottom area (I’m not sure if there is a technical term for a goose’s rear end!)

Canada Goose and mystery friend

Canada Goose and mystery friend

This was exciting.  Was it a new species of bird that I was not familiar with for my 2014 list?  Had I discovered a new species previously unknown to man?

A quick check of my “I-Spy Book of British Gooses” proved to be of little assistance – I would clearly need to do a bit more research.

My better bird book – “The Collins Bird Guide” – didn’t help much either, but it still probably remains my favourite book of all time.  Even if you aren’t a massive fan of birds, as a reference book, it is quite a phenomenal piece of work and I encourage you to check it out – It’s got pictures and everything!

A bit of research suggests that some geese and ducks can cross breed, with the offspring – as you’d expect – taking on some of the features of both parents.  The solitary out of department genetics module I took at University hadn’t really prepared me for this.  Apparently, this cross-breeding is fairly common amongst certain types of waterfowl.

Cross-breeding is not the same as angry reproduction!

A little subsequent poke around on the internet (www.gaggle.co.uk) suggested that the bird I had seen was a Canada Goose/Greylag Goose cross.

What do you think of my deduction?

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose

Canada Goose X Greylag Goose

Canada Goose X Greylag Goose?

Disappointingly, it seemed that I hadn’t discovered a new species of bird, but I had seen something that was likely to be fifty-percent Greylag – A bird I had yet to see so far in 2014.

Should it be included as a half score?  This was a major dilemma, as my scoring system for one tick per new bird was not suitable for including 0.5 of a cross-breed.  Rather ignorantly, I clearly hadn’t prepared for this sort of eventuality.

As Greylags are fairly common and I was likely to encounter one at some point soon, I decided not to add it to the list.  I’d hate to complicate the scoring system beyond my mathematical means.  Probably for the best…



  • The I-Spy Book of British Gooses doesn’t, in fact, exist.  If any publisher is interested in my concept, please let me know and I will happily negotiate my authoring fee.
  • www.gaggle.co.uk also doesn’t exist.  If the people at Google are interested in an internet search engine purely for all things goose, just give me a shout.

About mixaeljones

Hello! I try to undertake a yearly challenge and write about it in a semi-witty manner. I often use twenty words when three will do. I am also a big fan of terrible puns and taking unintentionally blurry photographs of wildlife. In 2013 I tried to eat a food I hadn't eaten before each week (I got to 28!), in 2014 I attempted to seek out as many species of bird as I could in the year (I got to 201!) and in 2015 I delved head first into the world of butterflies and tried to see as many different types as possible (44!)... I've also done some belly dancing, been Father Christmas and nearly played tennis against Bjorn Borg. If any of this seems like it might be of interest, feel free to check out my blogs... Comments encouraged! Have a nice day :)
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