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Name That Goose--Bird Watchers Flocking To Paproskis' Corn Field



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Name That Goose––

Bird Watchers Flocking To Paproskis’ Corn Field

By Dottie Evans

Birdwatchers from all over Western Connecticut are flocking to Steve Paproski’s corn field off Sugar Lane to catch a glimpse of several unusual looking geese that have been hanging out with the hordes of resident Canada geese that usually gather there. It’s the triangular piece of land between Sugar Lane and Route 302, where the corn maze stood a month ago.

Looking over the gigantic gaggle of Canada geese that fill the field, you don’t have to be Roger Tory Peterson to spot one particular interloper. Its white face and white cheeks are in sharp contrast to the black faces and chinstraps worn by the Canadas.  This bird is a little shorter and stockier, and its legs are on the orange side instead of dark gray.

Some say it is a rare barnacle goose, which nests in Greenland and winters in Europe and is seen only very occasionally on Connecticut’s East Coast in the late fall.

Others think maybe it’s a white-fronted goose, or it’s the “blue phase” of a snow goose. Or it’s a hybrid cross between any or all of the above. Whatever it is, it’s an odd bird and it’s causing a commotion.

“All I know is, there are all these people from Greenwich and everywhere trying to get a look at it,” said Steve Paproski, who keeps an eye on his fields from across the street at Castle Hill Farm on 40 Sugar Lane.

“At night, I think the whole flock flies over to Taunton Lake,” because the lake’s open water offers a safe haven from predators.

His neighbor, Darlene Spencer of 24 Sugar Lane, said she first began seeing the photographers with tripods around Thanksgiving weekend.

“There were all these out-of-state plates,” Darlene noted.

On Wednesday, November 30, John Marshall of Watertown drove down to Newtown over his lunch hour to see what was up. He had read about the sighting on the birdwatchers’ chat site virtualbirder.com, which directs people to places where an unusual bird has turned up.

 As Mr Marshall cruised slowly past the Paproskis’ corn field, the Cape May Bird Observer/New Jersey Audubon Society sticker on his back window betrayed his purpose. Parking quickly, he leaped out of his car, opened the trunk, and within seconds had set up his scope and tripod.

“I think it’s a barnacle goose. There was one here in Connecticut a couple of years ago. And it might be lame, it seems a bit gimpy. It’s a little smaller than the Canada geese, and I can see it’s not banded,” he added.

“It may be an escaped captive. I guarantee this one will be debated by the avian records committee. It’s not a definitive sighting, so I don’t think it will get counted.”

Nevertheless, people are skipping lunch to go see it. 

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