Tracking a banded Canada goose on the Mississippi

Last Saturday I was supposed to have a duck watch program at Point Douglas in Hastings, Minn. The confluence of the St. Croix River and the Mississippi River is well known to ice fishermen and diving ducks. The area tends to have some open water all winter and when the waterfowl migration winds down in early December you can get common goldeneye, common mergansers, ring-necked ducks, trumpeter swans and lots of bald eagles. There are usually a few rarities thrown in like Barrow’s goldeneye, Harlequin duck and long-tailed duck.

But the incredibly mild autumn has left many lakes wide open and that’s where the ducks are mostly hanging out. I still went down to see what ducks were there. It was mostly Canada geese and common goldeneye with a few trumpeters and mergansers thrown in. I did a little bit of digiscoping to see if I could get any cool duck photos for my park’s Instagram account. As I was scanning the geese, I noted one of them had a neck collar on it. The collar was blue and the code read “617A.” I took a picture and made a note to turn in the band number and check to see in my backlog of photos if this goose had shown up in my park corridor before.

When I came home I turned in the band number to the Bird Banding Lab, specifically to their Auxiliary Markers page

Tony Lau screenshot: Tony Lau posted a picture of a Canada goose with a neck band.

Then I hopped on to Facebook and saw that my birding friend Tony Lau had not only visited Point Douglas after I was there, but also got a picture of the same banded goose. Erik Collins wrote the comment, “Wow! I remember seeing that goose in 2011 and emailing Sharon Stiteler, who’d also seen it.” Erik helpfully linked to my blog post That saved me from going through some old photo albums!

So thanks to the Internet and the Bird Banding Lab, we know the goose was banded in 2008 in Becker County and has been seen several times along Point Douglas. And even thought at times when the bird is fluffed out to stay warm, it makes the band look like it’s too tight on the neck, but clearly it’s been able to survive. The oldest known banded Canada Goose lived to be over 33 years old. Perhaps this goose will live that long. Regardless, keep an eye out for 617A if you’re down around Point Douglas.

Incidentally, since we are finally getting some cold weather and even a Polar Vortex, any place there’s open water should be quite productive for birdwatching waterfowl and bald eagles.

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