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Field Notes No. 15 (December 21, 2011)

December 21, 2011, Wednesday afternoon

Sunny, slight wind out of the Southwest, temperature 39 degrees F.

The geese were congregated on the north lake today. Both lakes were mostly free of ice, although the north lake had a few patches of free-floating ice. The Canada Goose flock is reduced to a few hundred. A few dozen Cackling Geese and the three Snow Geese are still here. A few mallards were mixed in with the geese. On the south lake I saw 8 Ruddy Ducks, 6 American Coots, and a female Bufflehead. The Greater Scaup male and Lesser Scaup female were back after being gone for a few days.

Ice cover on the lakes has been freezing and melting with wide fluctuations in ambient air temperatures this month. Strong winds have accompanied warm fronts and the wind has helped break up the ice. The temperature of the water must be very close to the freezing point because one cold night can cause the surface to freeze and then a few days of warm weath! er and the ice is gone. I imagine this is frustrating for those who like to ice-fish.

The three Snow Geese (one adult and two juveniles) have been together each time I have seen them during the last couple of weeks. This indicates they are probably a family group. Geese mate for life so the group is missing one adult. Sexes are not distinguishable by plumage so it is impossible to tell whether the adult is a male or a female. Juveniles in their first year's plumage can be identified according to age. The Snow Goose occurs as two color phases referred to as blue and white. Originally, these were identified as two distinct species, the Blue Goose and the Snow Goose. When biologists eventually found their nesting colonies on the Arctic tundra, both color phases were nesting close together in the same colony. I'll say more about the genetics of the Snow Goose in a later field note.

We are nearly to the end of the calendar year. If you plan to take a! tax deduction this year on your membership dues, now is the time to send in your renewal.

Erv Klaas