Big Year 2016: FDR Park

So Angry

I was at work on Friday when the alert came through – a PAIR of BARNACLE GEESE being seen right down the road in FDR Park. My pulse quickened, I started sweating and I started plotting on how I could get out of the office to see these wonderful birds. Why would I be so excited? Well, let’s look at some history…

A Long Time Nemesis

For 9 years, I’ve been trying to see a BARNACLE GOOSE – it was at the top of my Nemesis List. I’ve gone out looking for them a dozen times but have had the unenviable luck of having missed them EVERY time. I’ve show up only a few minutes after they’ve flown off several times; I’ve gone looking at places where they had been seen for extended periods only to be there on the day AFTER the last sighting. I’ve gone where they’re supposed to be and unable to locate them in a field with thousands of other geese. The common thread? That they WERE there when I went to find them, but weren’t there (or weren’t visible) when I got there. Over many hours of driving (always in winter, since that’s when they show up), I’d come up with a big zero in the space next to Barnacle Goose on my lifelist.

You see, that’s the thing – these birds are notoriously fickle. They don’t stick around very long when they do pop up. When they DO stick around an area for an extended visit, they still tend to move around a lot over a fairly large area so they have to be tracked down. And I just haven’t been able to do it. So having one practically in my back yard was a great chance – even better that there were TWO geese to be seen.

Going For It

I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to get there on Friday – I’d have to get home, get my car and gear, get to FDR Park, find the birds – all in the hour-and-a-half before dark. It just wasn’t going to happen. So I made plans to head down there on Saturday and hope that they hadn’t fled in front of the wicked cold front that was coming to town.

I got down there at 10 in the morning and went right to the main pond where I thought was the most likely location. Pulling up it seemed like a good choice – there were hundreds of geese on the ice and in the small area of open water. I started scanning when another birder I knew casually walked up and told me they were there on the right … or they had been 20 minutes previously. When we looked then they were gone. It was happening again – missed them by only minutes. Thankfully, she agreed to help me track them down at other locations around the park.

So, did I mention it was frigid out? Not just cold but low single digits cold with a blustery wind that turned into a snow squall as we looked in a nearby park, the golf course and the driving range. We scanned the pond again. It was happening again.

Then an acquaintance of Annie’s pulled up and said that he had the geese at the far end of the golf course – but we’d have to trek to see them. Which I was fine with, cold or no. Luckily, Annie walked up and flipped me a fur-lined hat to keep my unprepared head warm or I would have been sadly frozen by the time we got there. We trekked about a 1/3 of a mile and after a false alarm by yours truly we crossed a foot bridge in the snow and saw them. Someone had said that they would stand out and they weren’t kidding.

Finally - Barnacle Goose!!

They were beautiful – silver and black to the Canada Goose’s brown and black. I was captivated by them, by their beauty and by the fact that after all this time I was finally seeing them. I got pictures, moved closer and got more pictures, closing in to get a better look. But these finicky birds turn out to be rather easy to spook as well and suddenly they were in the air, disappearing to who knows where. I keep my eyes on them as long as I could, seeing that their beauty didn’t pale in the air.



  • 104) Barnacle Goose ABA Code 3
2016 YTD Tally
104 Species – Month 47
Lifers 7
NJ Species 98
NJ Lifers 7

Leave a Reply