Goose Roost Patterns

by Carl Strang

A severe winter storm in early December quick-froze the surfaces of ponds, marshes and many lakes. This was disappointing, as I hoped for waters to stay open longer than they did last year. On the other hand, the repeat may allow me to get a sense of how consistent the behavior of wintering geese will be under similar conditions.

One departure from last year was evident on December 12 at the Blackwell roost. About 1200 geese were roosting on the frozen surface of Silver Lake.

Among them was one bird with the orange neck collar that marks it as a goose that nests in the Hudson Bay region.

I am not sure why these geese roosted where they did, given the availability of open water in last year’s roosting area on the nearby stream, where I counted an additional 2300 birds (including 3 more with orange collars).

Otherwise, patterns on that day were familiar. Around 700 geese were at the McDowell roost, 2500 at Hidden Lake, and geese were absent from frozen Herrick Lake and Rice Lake at Danada Forest Preserve. At the moment, counts are higher at all three of these roosts than my highest counts last year (which were 3000 at Blackwell, 500 at McDowell and 880 at Hidden Lake). The geese were moving out in familiar directions from the roosts to feed.

Whether these numbers will stay so high remains to be seen. On the days following the storm, which affected most of eastern North America, many geese from farther north were passing high over DuPage County and, according to reports from birders, continuing on at least to central Illinois. If last year’s pattern of severe cold and freezing roosts continues, the numbers of local birds will drop.

A respite of two warm days opened up the Blackwell roost and part of Silver Lake. On December 15, I found geese again on that lake, resting on the edge of the open area.

The main roost pond above the dam, just north of Silver Lake, also had opened.

I was able to photograph one of the collared geese from close enough range to read its collar.

The identification code for this individual is M8R1.

I have passed this information on to the Canadian Wildlife Service. The weather is turning cold again, so the possibility remains that DuPage geese will be forced to shift south.

1 Comment

  1. January 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    […] a mid-December post I mentioned a Canada goose at the Blackwell roost wearing an orange neck collar with the designation […]

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