Russian White-fronted Goose with orange bill

Never seen one of these

Excellent day out at Slimbridge WWT with Mrs Garner on 2nd January. It’s becoming an annual pilgrimage and I seem to be fortunate to always discover something new. Last year with James Lees, Martin McGill, Simon Mackie, Mike Dilger, and Ed Drewitt we pulled out a Tundra Bean Goose (only seen on that one day over the whole winter see here). This year began with James in the Robby Garnet hide watching the second winter female Lesser Scaup at amazingly close range. Still clearly possible to age from an adult female I manged to glimpse it even before it’s identity had been fully established on last winter. See here.

There were some Russian White-fronted Geese (ssp. albifrons) also on the bird – filled ‘Tack Piece’. Scanning through them I quickly locked on to an orange-billed individual. The orange colour flashing as it grazed head-down. I turned to James, and said I’ve got a Greenland White-fronted Goose here, but as I kept watching it, the head came up, and head and bill structure were identical to the other Russian White-fronts. I tempered my comment ‘oh hold on, it had the same structure’. With black nail on bill and no black belly bars it was clearly a first winter. James then filled in the details. One of the earliest groups of Russian White-fronts to arrive this year at Slimbridge was a family party consisting of two normal adults, two normal (pink-billed) first winters, and two orange- billed first winters. Well I have never seen or heard of anything like this. The birds quickly flew off onto the Dumbles, and I was able to relocate and watch one of the first winters. I could see no difference from the other Russian White-fronted Geese except for this vivid orange bill colour. A great start to another year of discovery and learning.

The bird was a long way off on the Dumbles but hopefully you can see the bill colour on the videos below. Thanks to Tristan Reid for help getting grabs off the video.

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Remember you can press the pause button.

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About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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