Possible Ross’s Goose at UF Beef Unit

From: Rex Rowan <rexrowan@gmail.com>
To: Alachua County birding report

This morning Dean and Samuel Ewing called to report a Ross’s Goose at the UF Beef Unit (AKA Sandhill Station, on the corner of Williston Road and SW 23rd Street). Samuel described it in his eBird checklist: ” Seen well, feeding out in fields with Sandhill Cranes. The bill was much to small for it to be a Snow Goose. Carefully studied through binocs and scope at close range. At one point all the cranes got spooked and the goose flew off too. They landed in one of the cow fields just a little farther north though. At first they were almost viewable from Williston Road, then they flew to one of the Beef Teaching Unit’s northernmost fields.” Samuel’s photos are here and here.

While waiting for the photos I called Mike Manetz, who was out birding, and he ran over to the Beef Unit and got a picture of his own. At first Mike was uncertain whether the bird was a Ross’s or a hybrid Ross’s x Snow Goose, but he eventually decided it must be a Ross’s. “When it took off,” he said, “it looked like a gull.” By which he meant that it was petite and that its wingbeats were lighter than those of a Snow Goose. But looking at the photos, I can see why Mike was a little dubious. Ross’s has a rather steep forehead, with a relatively abrupt angle at the juncture with the bill (see here and here), while this bird seems to have a more evenly sloping forehead. It does, however, show the minimal grin patch, purple area at the base of the bill, and vertical demarcation between the bill and the face that are right for Ross’s.

I’d say this bird needs a little more close-range study, if possible. It may stick around; the four or five previous Ross’s have stayed as briefly as one day and as long as several weeks.

As Samuel noted in his eBird description, Sandhill Cranes are arriving. Several inbound flocks were noted last Saturday afternoon and were even heard calling after dark (nocturnal migration has been described in the past).