After living here for a year I finally went a month without adding a new county bird. The way the weather was in January I’m really not surprised. The only reason I know this fact is that I added a couple of county birds today and was looking back on the last few I had for Johnson County. Added one in each of October, November, and December of last year. But none in January.
So the Greater White-fronted Geese and Common Merganser I saw today at the Walmart/Lowes Pond starts the month off right. And both are uncommon birds in the area. No records of either on eBird for Johnson County and only one record of each from the CBC.
I had walked the Greenway Trail in the morning – Golden-crowned Kinglet being the highlight – and with the temperatures in the 40’s decided I would try biking out to Lowes/Walmart pond.
Let me say I’m not in biking shape. My legs started hurting about half-way there, or after about 10 minutes. And my lungs hurt. But I made it in 20 minutes as opposed to over an hour walking. A quick scan after cooling off so my glasses wouldn’t keep fogging, showed the pond really didn’t hold anything new from last week except a couple of female Common Goldeneyes. And I thought I saw a female Merganser diving a few times. But they all flew after about a minute so no picture today. But along with three male Common Goldeneye they made a couple of loops before heading out so I got to hear their distinctive wing beats. Something I missed from the constant groups flying up and down the Illinois River when I lived there.
I hung around for awhile and watched the groups of Canada Geese come and go, basically looking for smaller birds hanging out with them. Just when I was about to leave a group of 10 or so headed in with 2 birds distinctively smaller. First thought was Mallards, then Cackling Geese, and as they got closer I could tell from their call they were Greater White-fronted Geese. They never really got close, looped a couple of times, and then headed back to the east. So all I got was some distant flight shots.
But they show the narrower, pointed wings as compared to Canada Geese. And when I copy and lighten the picture of one of the geese, you can see the orange bill and legs, and the barring on belly.
I was out and about at dusk so I stopped back by the pond. Wave after wave of geese kept flying in. Among them were the two Greater White-fronted Geese and leucistic Canada Goose. Also confirmed the female Common Merganser. But it was dark and fog/mist was rolling off the ice still on most of the pond. It will be interesting to see how much ice remains tomorrow.
When I was biking home it started a cold rain. And during the worse part I look up and see the local Red-tailed Hawk, the one that wouldn’t appear last week, watching from the top of the telephone pole. Figures.