Oct 18, 2012

So Where Did That Canada Goose Really Come From?

For those of us who hunt waterfowl the fall migration is the holy grail and something we look forward to every year.  Migration means large numbers of ducks and geese leaving their northern haunts and heading south for the winter, but you never really know where that duck or goose was unless you are lucky enough to harvest a bird that has been banded.  For us waterfowlers, a banded bird is truly a special gift and one that causes a bunch of discussion in the blind until that lucky hunter can get home and report the band to find out where this bird was from. 

Bubba's Banded Goose

Last week was the Goose opener here in Connecticut and it found yours truly and the normal group of characters headed to the dairy farm for what we had hope would be a successful  hunt with a limit of geese to be turned into a fresh batch of goobasa, goose keilbasa that is. Little did we know that this hunt would turn special with one shot at a goose trying to get away, but it surely did.

It started out as a normal hunt on the farm, with an early morning gathering, setting out the decoy spread, hunkering down in the blind and waiting for the geese to start moving.  We had to deal with the fog and low visibility and birds that don't make much noise in the fog, but the second group of geese heading our way liked what we had to offer and committed to the spread.  Just as the first couple of geese touched down, the caller called take em, the door to the blind fell and there were 15 geese to pick from. We dropped 3 right away and one a little farther out to eh right and Bubba took a final shot at one trying to get out of dodge just about to the safe zone but he dropped it.  Once the shooting is done, the Chinese fire drill starts where a couple of us exit the blind and gather up the downed geese.  I had the pleasure of being set out for the long retrieve and as I approached the down bird, I got my first glance of the jewelry this goose was wearing - A dulled yellow neck collar.  Now I know no one say the collar or the goose would have been dumped a whole lot quicker, so I gathered up the goose making sure my hand covered the collar completely and the feet facing away from everyone.  As I approached the blind the guys were stammering about what a good shot that was and I asked who made the shot, hoping multiple people would claim it, but everyone pointed to Bubba and so I spun the goose around so everyone could see the yellow neck collar and you would have thought everyone was watching the winning run score in game 7 of the world series.  No one really payed much attention to the metal leg band at the time, so we put the goose in the blind and got set back up for the next flock.

We worked the next flock that came in and brok three geese away and they dumped into the decoys and all three stayed and joined the previous 5.  The next flock allowed us to break off just two birds which was exactly what was needed to finish off our 5 man limit, so the pressure was on for Busch Pilot and Chuck to drop the last two and it took an extra shot or three but they did their job and the mission was complete and it was just 7:50am.  A 5 man limit of geese on the 2012 Connecticut goose opener, man you could could smell the goobasa cooking in the smoker.

2012 opening day goose limit

As we were picking up and trying to get packed up and out of the field so as not to spook any geese coming in for a morning meal, one of the guys was looking over the banded goose and took the first look at the leg band and it read - Zoologisk Muesuem  Coppenhagen, Denmark.  This was obviously not the typical federal leg band that we have seen before and the excitement level grew and we could not wait to get back to the house to see what we could find out about this band.  After reviewing the federal band reporting sight and finding nothing, we did a quick google search and found a report from a New Jersey hunter that harvested a goose tagged in the same manner.  There were some links in the replies to his post asking for help and one pointed us to the European Union for Bird Ringing (http://www.euring.org/).   Where after review of their website we found a link to the European Colour-Ring Birding website (http://www.cr-birding.org/) which had links to search the ringing projects where we found two that matched the method and species of Bubba's goose.  There were two projects, one in Russia and one in Greenland.  Both projects listed contact information for the project coordinators so we sent off a couple of emails and by that evening Bubba had received a reply confirming that the banded goose he harvested was from the Greenland project.

Bubba with his West Greenland Banded Goose

The information received from the coordinator confirmed that Bubba's goose had been captured and banded as an adult female on July 23, 2008 on lake "F" in an area known as Isunngua (few of the lakes have names in this area) which was just north of the airport at Kangerlussuaq in West Greenland.  This goose had been reported as being sighted in Connecticut in November of 2008 and September of 2009 as well as back in West Greenland in 2009, 2010 and most recently in July of 2012.  Geese from this project have been reported from Canada to as far south as Virgina and as far west as Ohio. You can read more about this banding project and some of the geese from this project at:  http://greenland2011.wikispaces.com/Recoveries+and+resightings.   

Now we really are not sure how far this goose actually flew because we don't really know what flight path it took and what stops it made along the way from West Greenland this year, but the best I could come up with is approximately 2000 miles as the crow goose flies.   We may not know where the other 4 geese that were harvested in out of the flock with GNI, but you would have to think that she wasn't alone in this flock.

Remember to report all sightings and harvests of banded birds and a good place to start is the Federal band reporting website at: http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/bblretrv/


  1. Interesting post. Great information on bird banding. That definitely makes that bird special when you can trace its history.

  2. Wow! How crazy is that! Everytime I participate in a banding effort, I always wonder where "my" bird is going to end up. That is an awesome story!

  3. Banded Coots also regularly cross the Atlantic; just learned of this, this year.

    You have provided me with reasons to appreciate these birds more. No moe Sky-Panda jokes.

  4. What a long flight. During the season i will see large flocks of geese headed south and they are covering a lot of ground fast. I can only imagine where they came from. The Brant seem to make LIS their home for the winter and two of my friends shot banded brant one was Hudson bay and the other was from New foundland I think.

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