Sunday, on a whim, Kurt and I went to look for the locally rare pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus). A bird that breeds in Iceland and Greenland, it occasionally finds it’s way to North America in the winter. To make it as far west as Colorado is unusual indeed. It was hanging out in a flock of thousands of other geese, making it difficult to see, but we thought we’d try any way.
We first heard about it from some birders who were checking out the gulls at our neighborhood lake. They told us how tricky it was to spot, a needle in a mountain of straight pins. I was interested, knowing how odd it was for the goose to be in our state. But it wasn’t until a Facebook friend posted her picture of the bird on Saturday that I thought we should try to see it ourselves.
During the hour-long drive to the reservoir, we told ourselves we were just going birding. The chance of actually seeing this single goose seemed slim. “We are just going to show up and see what happens,” I said.
But I was hoping to see something new.
When we arrived, it was easy to see where to go. The reservior is man-made with a long earthen berm and you could see the entire shore line at once. There was a cluster of about 20 birders with scopes, binoculars, and cameras standing by a railing, all looking over the giant flock.
Hoping someone had already found the pink-footed goose, we joined the other birders. A guy with a scope showed me some bright-colored feet amongst the geese, saying they belonged to the goose in question. We tried to see more than just the feet without luck. I shared what I knew with a woman who asked and a few minutes later, understandbly miffed, she told me that the bright feet belonged to a mallard.
By asking and looking, we eventually caught a glimpse of the pink-footed goose in the middle of the flock. He only really showed up when he briefly lifted his solid brown head, which fortunately looked very different from the black and white heads of the cackling and Canada geese that were all around him.
After two unsuccessful hours of trying to get a better look as well as a photo, we took a break for lunch. We both wanted to get some exercise, so we agreed that despite the wind and our unsatisfactory pink-footed goose viewing, we would walk around the lake. We took the spotting scope and the smaller camera, not expecting to see much of anything new.
As soon as we got on the path, the sun came out, so we headed into it, thinking we would get a better view of the geese when we turned the corner and had the sun at our backs. Another photographer had the same idea and he was the one who told us the pink-footed goose had arrived.
He had indeed. He was out in the open, less than fifty feet away. We got to really look at him and I even got a picture with my phone through our scope. When he suddenly flew past us, Kurt was ready with the camera. He got some amazing pictures.
We were extremely lucky. Yes, we were in the right place at the right time because someone had told us to be there. But being on the right side of the reservoir when the pink-footed goose decided to step out of the crowd was a gift. We acted on our whims and the results were delightful.
As my husband often says, “It’s better to be lucky than good.”
Have you had good luck because of something you did on a whim?