Cackling Geese in Potter Valley
- Happy new year, birders. Today I noticed a flock of Canada Geese in the field across the street from my house in southern Potter Valley. In amongst the 50 or so large Canada Geese were 9 smaller ones. 6 of the 9 were obviously Ridgway's Cackling Geese (B.h.minima), while the other three were slightly larger, with slightly longer bills. Two were a little lighter breasted, while the third was quite dark on the breast. I'm not sure which subspecies of the Canada Goose complex (including both Cackling Goose and Canada Goose proper) these three might be, but I suspect that they were either Lesser Canada Geese (B.c.parvipes) or Taverner's Cackling Goose (B.h.taverneri).
I am pretty unfamiliar with these two taxa, and small White-cheeked Geese are notoriously difficult to identify, but I did find this website: <http://www.idahobirds.net/identification/white-cheeked/introduction.html> to be helpful, especially the 'Descriptive Comparisons' section down at the bottom. David Sibley has a nice summery of identification criteria on his website, too, though it doesn't seem to have any photos or illustrations: <http://www.sibleyguides.com/2007/07/identification-of-cackling-and-canada-goose/> I took a lot of photos, but unfortunately the geese are rather far away and the conditions are suboptimal (dark and overcast, and the birds had their heads down a lot), so I'm not sure how useful the photos are. Maybe tomorrow they'll be a bit more cooperative.
Good birding in the new year,
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