Birders come to Cape Sable Island with the expectation of seeing something different. That expectation can sometimes lead to over-exuberance when it comes to identifying the birds, one classic case is the regular winter confusion of the Daniel’s Head farm geese with Snow Goose, To complicate matters, that little cabal of interlopers did harbour a Snow Goose found by Johnny during this past winter, although it only lingered into the very early part of 2017. It is not just the fairly straightforward geese that throw a feathered spanner into the works; more than once I’ve pulled up sharp when a glance of a rusty flank has suggested Northern Shoveler or a grey body hinted at Northern Pintail and all that comes into focus is a duck Jim, but not as we know it. I am talking about the flock of mucky ducks* (not a species, put that pen away) that we have around the south end of CSI and so, for one time only, here for your enjoyment are photos of some of our rogues.
Mucky Ducks are basically (mostly) Mallard derivatives that have, over time, been cross-bred to produce the mad scientist-like designs we see today. There are many ‘pure’ breeds of duck, all derivatives, for an example just Google ‘Indian Runner’ to see what I mean. A bred special bred to stand upright and run, no idea why.
Ducks are quite slack about their romantic preferences, mostly because, like some governments, it is a male-dominated system and the males just take what they want when the mood is upon them, often upon many of them. The females cannot even grin and bear it, what with having rigid bills and so, in the wild, we do get some odd concoctions. It is not just ducks but geese are just as bad but, at the end of the day, they all taste the same, just like duck or goose!
This one is a hybrid Mallard x Northern Pintail, a Mintard. Luckily the parentage is obvious, that is not always the case.
Moving on to geese, here is a Snow x Ross’s Goose, Snow body, Ross’s head.
This one is a Greater White-fronted Goose x Canada, the clues are there.
This seems to have Canada Goose in it but what else? That bill pattern suggests maybe Emperor?
This one is tough, the bill suggests maybe Greylag, makes you wonder what sort of parties its parents went too!
Not every weird goose is a hybrid, can you figure this one out.
Not ducks but it was like Panama City over the yard today with a kettle of Turkey Vultures and one Bald Eagle.