Saturday, 26 November 2011

TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Tyttenhanger


A very blustery morning with a strong SW wind blowing. Temperatures were pegged back to 11 degrees C, with cloudy conditions prevailing......


At around 1050 hours, I received a phone call from Steve Blake informing me of a 'Bean Goose' at Tyttenhanger. It had just arrived and was 'jittery'

Being an excellent county bird, I jumped in the car and just as I was arriving on site some 23 minutes later, Steve phoned again to say that the bird had just that minute flown off high south (at 1115 hours). I was mightily cheesed off, as the section of M25 between Junctions 21 and 22 inevitably and repeatedly cost me valuable minutes with the continuing roadworks. As it was, I decided to drive around to the northern entrance to the pits and as I was doing so, Steve phones again with the news that the bird has flown back on to the pit !

I was particularly pleased therefore to see it still present as I 'scoped from the first 'bridge'. I then walked around to the farm to get better views. I joined the finders (Steve Blake, Ricky Flesher and Steve Pearce) as well as Graham Knight and Phil Rhodes (and later to be joined by Mike Ilett and Robin Pearson). The bird was loosely associating with the other geese present on the pit - 40 Atlantic Canada Geese and the two - an adult and juvenile - EURASIAN WHITE-FRONTED GEESE - and after swimming on the water for 20 minutes or more eventually climbed out on to the sand spit and started preening and then sleeping. The views were excellent and both Steve Blake and Mike Ilett obtained some excellent photographs and video footage (to be published later).

The bird with its thick, dark, short neck and relatively short, stumpy bill was an obvious TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE. This bird, unlike the family party I saw at Cainhoe last weekend, had only a limited amount of orange on the bill, restricted to a thin line towards the tip of the bill. The legs and feet were dull orange whilst the flanks were uniform and upperwings boldly fringed with thite. The most distinct white edges were on the tips of the secondaries and the greater coverts whilst the others were more subdued and less white in appearance. The bird was a first-winter.

It roosted on the sand for some time, occasionally taking on a more alert posture, before returning to the water but for no apparent reason, flew off again south at 1237 hours. I watched it fly over the wood and then drop down, seemingly on the farm reservoir south of Coursers Lane. Allan Stewart and I later went over there but just as we did, a shooting party arrived, and consequently Ian Williams picked it up returning once more to the main pit at 1340 hours. It was still on the main pit when I departed the site some 15 minutes later.

Bean Geese are rare vagrants to Hertfordshire with just nine previous records involving 40 individuals. At least one of these was believed to be an escape -:

1) A party of 15 were seen near Royston on 15 January 1881;
2) One was shot in Munden Park, Watford, during the winter of 1890/91;
3) Two were noted in the Colne Valley at Maple Cross on 16 February 1979;
4) A bird of somewhat suspect origin was at Hooks Marsh, Cheshunt, from 31 March and 2 May 1981; what was presumably the same bird was seen at Rye Meads on 9 May 1983 and again in the Lee Valley during February to April 1986 before returning to Amwell from 10 March to 20 May 1991 and 5 January to 17 May 1992;
5) Two were reported at Maple Cross on 24 February 1984 but were considered by the observer to be feral birds;
6) One remained with Canada Geese at Wilstone Reservoir from 9 February to 23 March 1985;
7) Two Tundra Bean Geese were at Wilstone Reservoir on 4-5 January 1997;
8) Two adult Tundra Bean Geese visited the HMWT Meadows at Rye Meads RSPB on 2 December 2004
9) A party of 14 Tundra Bean Geese visited Wilstone Reservoir on 26 January and 7 February 2006 but remained in the interim period at neighbouring College Lake BBOWT and surrounding farmland.

In addition to the geese, the pit held 4 Great Crested Grebes and 133 Lapwings, whilst 2 Red Kites and 8 European Golden Plovers flew over; Allan Stewart and I had 12 TREE SPARROWS at the Tyttenhanger Farm Feeding Station

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