Every now and then, among the flocks of ‘feral’ greylag geese feeding on the adjacent farmland, a few birds stand out from the crowd. Occasionally a truly ‘wild’ goose will have joined the resident goose population while on its winter vacation from Northern Europe and Russia.
This week, a tundra bean goose, which would have spent the summer on the Northern Russia Tundra, has given birdwatchers at the Reserve the run-around when it appeared in a field in Thrumpton – and could be seen (albeit through a telescope) from the River Path on the Attenborough side of the river.
First spotted on Saturday 22nd, it was easy to pick out in a field of cabbages alongside the greylags. It was seen briefly again on Sunday and then disappeared only to be re-found on Coneries Pond on Thursday morning – the first official record of this species within the designated area of the Nature Reserve.
The excitement surrounding the arrival of the tundra bean goose is justified when you consider that this is only the fourth time that this species has been seen anywhere near the Attenborough complex. The last record was in 2011 (in the same field) and prior to that two records in the early 80s (1981 & 82).
The tundra bean goose is not only a scarce winter visitor to Nottinghamshire but also across much of the East Midlands. Less than 500 individuals appear on our shores each winter and while they do not have a regular wintering area, their distribution is mostly concentrated around South West Scotland and the Norfolk Coast. In contrast the pink footed goose, a close relative of the bean goose, numbers some 350,000 individuals during the winter months and can be seen regularly in the county as large skeins pass overhead on migration.
The tundra bean goose looks similar to the pink-footed goose, and is almost identical to the taiga bean goose (a sub-species that breeds in taiga habitats). The tundra can be easily separated from the pink-footed by the dark brown head and neck that does not contrast with the body, which is much browner. The tundra bean goose also has more strongly barred flanks and more contrasting pale feather fringing against the darker upper parts of the body.