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A few kind local birders emailed me privately about my goose question and I did a bit of research on seawatch sightings up and down the coast this time of year. Although I don't have photo documentation, my fears were allayed and I'm reasonably confident that I did indeed see a movement of CACKLING GEESE on 1/15 from Point Cabrillo and not Brant. As the weather has been a bit strange lately, it seems possible that several goose species may be on the move...
--- In Mendobirds@yahoogroups.com, "Ken Schneider" <kschnei1@...> wrote:
I just spent a great two days birding in Mendocino County (1/15-16). When I arrived at Rose Memorial Park in Fort Bragg on Sunday morning after owling along Orr Springs Road, John Luther and Larry Petri (?) were already watching the female BALTIMORE ORIOLE as John reported. John mentioned the Navarro River mouth as a nice spot, so I took his advice and checked out Navarro State Beach on Sunday afternoon. Almost a thousand gulls were present, predominantly California, Mew and Herring, but also a young GLAUCOUS GULL which I was able to photograph.
Regarding my goose question, I have to admit that Rick Harris's post about migrating Brant along the coast made me realize I may have made a whopper of a misidentification! I was at Point Cabrillo on Sunday morning before I went to Fort Bragg and saw several large skeins of geese flying north quite close to the point, including one group that contained a single ROSS'S GOOSE (Chen sp. goose with short neck, short stubby bill, no grin patch seen). I snap-identified the much more numerous geese as CACKLING GEESE based on a short neck, short stubby bill and high-pitched vocalizations. I'm wondering now if I somehow mistook the white necklace for a cheek patch and totally humiliated myself on this one... I don't bird up here much and would love to here from someone (private email or here) about the relatively probability of seeing large flocks of Brant versus Cackling Geese offshore at this time of year...