Friday, May 31, 2013

Non-traditional Geese, A Heron's Crab Feast, and More

Yesterday morning's trip to Silver Sands State Park was full of surprises. There were no nesting shorebirds (which is what I was actually supposed to be looking for), but the many other awesome creatures roaming the beaches and marshes more than made up for it.

A group of about 40 Brant (our small dark geese) was hanging out on the shore. That in itself wasn't too surprising, since these birds are in Connecticut in the summer (although I don't see them very often), but wait, what's up with those two weird-looking white and gray geese in there?

I'm still not exactly sure what to do with these two geese, but they are unquestionably something unusual. Parts of them look so similar to the Brant (which are on the right hand side and in the back of the above picture), but they've also got those splotchy white patches and orangey-pink legs (but dark beaks), which is, well, weird. And from other views, they don't really look much like Brant at all:

I circulated my pictures among some Connecticut bird people, and the consensus seems to point to a hybrid between Brant and Snow Goose. I can definitely see some Snow Goose in these birds. And I think this is really pretty cool. However unlikely it might actually be (and according to my internet searches, Brant x Snow Goose hybrids have happened before, but they are extremely unlikely), and even though it'd be pretty difficult to know for sure that this is what's going on here, I just really like the idea that somewhere, at some point, there was a Snow Goose who looked at a Brant and thought, "Hey, that is one attractive goose," and the Brant thought so, too, and so what if you're only supposed to mate with geese that look like you. It seems to have worked out, if these two unusual birds are any indication.

So that was pretty awesome. I'll probably never see another Brant x Snow Goose, and these guys are absolutely one of a kind.

In other parts of the beach, tiny Semipalmated Sandpipers pattered over the low-tide sand:

And then flew off on little wings when they thought I was too close (I was crouched in one spot, so really they were the ones who got too close to me):

In the marshes near the beach, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron was feasting on the little Fiddler Crabs that live in the mud, and I had a great time watching this graceful hunter close up:

There were tons of crabs all over, and the heron was busy snatching them up. There was a lot of crunching (note the crab's shadow in this next picture):

I had way too much fun taking pictures of this gorgeous bird as it danced and posed. I love the pattern of feathers on its back and the fancy marks on its face:

The heron was really very good at what it was doing. Oh little crab, I don't think you're going to be around much longer:

Nope, there you go:

Down the hatch!

Mmm, a satisfied heron:

Speaking of crabs, this little spiky creature caught my eye as it scuttled through a quickly-moving stream to the ocean:

I scooped it up to check it out, and it turned out to be a Hermit Crab! It immediately rushed back to the water, quickly enough that I couldn't quite keep it in focus:

And although not technically a crab (actually in a group of its own, separate from crustaceans), this Horseshoe Crab had buried itself in a swirled depression in the wet sand. I assume it's still alive, although I didn't disturb it to find out for sure:

The hot weather is really coming in now, and what better way to start off another season of summer weather than with an awesome and eventful trip to the beach!

No comments:

Post a Comment