Sunday, 22 February 2015

The wintering Greylag flock

The Greylag flock at Pearson Park has been up to 94 strong this winter. The flock size varies, though, some days, there are just one or two individuals, others many more. I believe groups move between East Park and Pearson Park, as I have seen some distinctive individuals, which I call 'White Head' and 'White Chest' in both places, sometimes on the same day. As spring approaches, males become more aggressive toward other geese and the flock splits up into pairs which will settle in suitable breeding areas. Greylags are found year round at East Park, but they don't breed at Pearson Park so they only turn up occasionally in the summer.
During February, I have photographed the flock in all weathers, so I thought I'd share a selection of photos.
There was snow on the 4th and the geese moved to under the trees to feed on the grass. A kind lady with a well behaved dog threw some seed at them, but the Common Gulls descended 'en masse' to grab it before the geese had the chance to register what was going on (above)
Foraging on the snowed grass.
If you look a geese for a while, it doesn't take long to realise that individuals are attached to each other. There are pairs and families which include the pair and the young produced the previous year. The group above, probably a family, marched nervously towards the water close to each other as a large dog on the loose approached. 
This inquisitive individual was part of a family of seven, who took full possession of the bread we were delivering and didn't let any other goose approach. This is a young one, still not quite one year old, note the greyish tip of the bill, or nail, which is still black in some young ones.
Families are quite successful fending off pairs. Several individuals in this family had very orange legs, which I wonder if it is a sign of being healthy.
The young one was quite chuffed of having fended off the pair at the background.
Came back in an aggressive posturing.

This individual has a distinctive flap on his belly.
Does anybody want some seeds?
Sometimes even geese need some peace and quiet. This one sat on the grass while the whole flock was some distance away being feed by people.
It is not too difficult to tell male and female geese apart. Males are heavier, taller and they have a more robust head. However, females can suffer higher mortality during incubation, and if the sex ratio is male bias male-male pairs are not unusual.
On the 10th of February we had thick fog. I counted 94 goose early in the morning grazing on the grass.
 This year the flock often includes a Canada goose, which I call 'Confused' who was probably brought up by Greylags, as it is attached to them...
...and 'White Head'
Here is 'Confused' again. He seems attached to three individuals. The source of this interspecific attachment may originate from her being adopted as a very young gosling by a pair of greylag defending their own young from her Canada parents and the gosling becoming imprinted to the greylag family. Canada seem to have longer term family attachment than Greylag, so she might still travel with their adoptive parents.
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