Bird#? — Pink-footed Goose

anser brachyrhynchus

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 — 1:08 pm

Weld County, Colorado — County Road 7 about a mile south of Route 119

Earlier this week, somebody started a Colorado Rare Bird Report Facebook page. I signed up, of course. This morning, somebody got on it with a live video of a Pink-footed Goose about 30 miles north of Denver.

Pink-footed Geese breed in Greenland and Iceland and winter in northern Europe. There are a few records from the US east coast, but none from inland. Yet there was a live video on my computer of a Pink-footed Goose just two hours away.

I had a half-vacation day, left over from my failed morning attempt at a Western Screech-Owl back in the early spring. I asked my boss if I could go and she shooed me out the door on my “wild goose chase,” as she called it. It was 11:15 am.

I drove home and changed my clothes and grabbed my binoculars. I was on the spot a few minutes after 1:00 and pulled over next to the group of birders with scopes. A friendly guy pointed out the goose as soon as I got out. I had forgotten my camera, so what pictures I have I took by holding my phone up to my scope.

It was with maybe 12 Canada Geese on the ice in a gravel pit pond, maybe 100 yards away. The Canadas were standing, but the Pink-footed Goose was sitting on the ice. I could see that it was grayish on the back and buffy brown underneath, with a darker brown head. Its bill looked black with a pink splotch on it. The Pink-footed Goose was smaller, with a shorter neck and bill than the Canadas.

I couldn’t see the pink feet. Confession time. I never saw the pink feet. Maybe five minutes after I got there, the geese took off and flew maybe 400 yards to another pond where a couple hundred Canada and Cackling Geese were hanging out. I hiked up there with the rest of the birders and we soon located it again. It had already settled into its sleeping posture. I got it in my scope, which help me keep track of it a couple minutes later when another couple thousand geese flew in. The goose was a little closer to the road, and the light was a little better. You can clearly see all the relevant marks—except the pink feet.

About four-fifths of the time, it had its head tucked so it looked like this.

I was planning on hanging around for maybe an hour, in hopes that it would stand and I’d see the famous feet. But an immature Bald Eagle had other plans. He flew over the lake the the huge flock of geese took off in a massive wave and broke into several flocks which flew off in several directions. The eagle is the large, dark bird in the middle of the video. You can get an idea of why we couldn’t find the Pink-footed Geese among the others when you noticed the massive flock of geese peppering the sky in the distance.

I drove around the area for a bit, and checked out a flock of geese on another pond, but I didn’t find it again. I could have hung around—the goose was relocated around 3:00, feeding in the grass around one of the ponds where I first saw it—but I had a two-hour drive ahead of me and I had no way of knowing it would be found again.

So why isn’t it a lifer? Because a lot of waterfowl are kept in zoos and private collections. Many out-of-range ducks and geese are escapees. The argument against being able to count it is simply one of location—it’s a very long way from Greenland. The arguments in favor of it being countable are that the wing and tail feathers are in very good shape—unusual in a captive-kept bird. It hadn’t been pinioned—cutting it’s flight feathers so it can’t fly. And it was’t wearing a band. But I’ll have to wait for the official report of the Colorado birding committee.

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Soli Deo Gloria, the choir Sally is in, had two concerts this past week. The first was Soli’s own concert, at a Methodist church in downtown Colorado Springs. On one of the songs, the choir was joined by four tap dancers. I’ll let you decide what to think about that. The second song on the video is a bit more normal. My phone was acting up and cut both songs short, but you can get the idea. Cynthia, my boss, is also in the choir. I sat with a group of people from work.

Two nights later, they had another concert. This one was at the Pikes Peak Center as backup singers for Keith and Kristyn Getty in their Sing!: An Irish Christmas show. Country music star Ricky Skaggs was also there. He played a mandolin, sang a few songs on his own, and joined the Gettys, and the choir on a few others.

The first half was mostly performance by the Gettys and Skaggs, with some dancing and instrumental pieces. The second half was mostly carol sing-along, which I didn’t care for as much. My seat, in the first row of the mezzanine, cost $58. I didn’t spend that much for a seat to stand and sing. I wanted to sit and listen. But it was about Sally, not me, and she had fun. Here are some bits from the concert, with poor sound quality.

I thought it was cool that Sally was on stage with famous musicians, so when I got home, I put this on Facebook.

For the Saturday Soli concert, Megan rode down with us. She and I wandered through downtown bookstores while Sally was rehearsing. After the concert, the three of us went to 3.14 Pi Bar for supper.

On Monday night, I wandered downtown again by myself. During my meanderings, I took these two photos. Sally had a couple hours between rehearsal and the concert, so we ate supper at the East Coast Deli. We got home around 10:30.

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November Highlights

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Estes Park

We stayed at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park for two nights over Thanksgiving. On Friday morning, we ate breakfast at The Egg and I. Sally had avocado toast for the first time, and liked it. I had a skillet, which would have been good if not for the hollendaise sauce dumped on top. The service was great, and when we asked on the way out where the best place to park in town would be, the manager told us to leave the car in his lot.

We didn’t make it far. The wind was howling, as it would continue to do all day, and the stores didn’t open for another hour. We headed back to the car and went back to The Stanley to visit its gift shop.

We made another try in town shortly after 10:00. One of the first stores we visited was an antique store that specialized in small stuff—jewelry, coins, autographs of famous people. There were drawers and drawers of interesting stuff. I bought a Confederate States of America $5 bill. Sally got a locket and an old tin of gramophone needles. It’s unlikely I’ll ever drive through the town again without stopping there. We visited several other stores and spent a lot of money on stuff. We bought some caramel corn at the most interesting-looking store in town, but the corn wasn’t very good.

When we’d exhausted our capacity for shopping, we went to the Estes Park Pie Shop. We split a grilled-cheese sandwich and each had a piece of pie. The food was good but not over the top, but once again, the service was amazing.

We hung out in the hotel in the afternoon. After our tour, we walked down the hill in the dark and found a spot on the sidewalk in time to watch the “Catch the Glow” Christmas parade. This was serendipitous—we had no idea it would happen while we were in town. The wind was still blowing hard, but we were adequately attired. The parade wasn’t long, but the floats were pretty fancy and well done. The only criticism I can come up with is that the town isn’t all that well lit, so much of the parade stuff was hard to see—as you can can’t see.

On Saturday morning, on our way out of town, we ate breakfast at the Notchtop Cafe. Once again, we had adequate food but very competent and friendly service. Everyone we met in Estes Park, excluding some of the staff at The Stanley, was very friendly. For such a well-known and popular place, I expected a vibe more like Manitou Springs or Boulder. But the town had a conservative feel. We saw evidence that at least a couple of the store owners were some brand of evangelicals. We liked the town a lot.

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