Birders get the sighting of a lifetime in Vannie

Take a gander at this



Bird watchers from Arkansas to Memphis flocked to Van Cortlandt Park this week to catch a glimpse of an Arctic goose rarely sighted on this side of the Atlantic. 

City birders believe the Barnacle Goose waddled from Inwood to the Parade Ground last weekend. Andrew Baksh, a volunteer who leads weekly birding expeditions in Vannie, posted some of the first Bronx photos of the squat goose with black and silver back plumage to his Birding Dude blog on Nov. 25. 

The lone Barnacle will likely fly off sometime before March when the weather heats up or the urge to mate strikes.

Barnacle geese breed in Greenland and an island 400 miles north of Netherlands called Svalbard, but they migrate to western Scotland and Ireland for the winter. A few of the geese occasionally fly down the wrong coast and wind up in Long Island.

It’s the first time the Arctic bird has been spotted in Van Cortlandt Park since Riverdalian John Young began tracking the park’s feathered inhabitants 56 years ago. While studying the Barnacle on Nov. 30, Mr. Young said he was pleased to spot a “life bird,” a term birders use to indicate they’ve sited a species for the first time in their lives.

“I knew exactly what it would look like. I’ve been looking at pictures of it for 50, 60 years,” he said. “For 999 out of 1,000 bird watchers, this is a life bird.” 

Throughout the past week, dozens of bird watchers wandered around Vannie with cameras and binoculars and squinted to pick the Barnacle out from hundreds of Canada geese bedding in the Parade Ground.

The bird inspired Craig and Dale Provost, of Little Rock, Ark., to take their first trip to the Bronx while spending a week babysitting their grandchildren in Manhattan.

“They’re in school, so we get to go birding,” Mr. Provost said with binoculars in hand on Nov. 30. “It’s great fun.”

Gail King, a Memphis native accompanying her husband on a business trip, and Dennis Burton, an ecologist and Van Cortlandt Park manager, wandered around the Parade Ground on Nov. 30 with a pack of bird watchers searching for the fowl.

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