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!)
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?
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.