Foam Lake Birding No. 47

No. 47
Even though I have written about Canada Geese, article No. 16, and the Franklin’s Gull, article No. 12, I was compelled to write about them again because of some unusual events in our area involving these two birds.
On May 13th, the day before the big unseasonable snowfall, we got a call from our neighbour informing us that there were two Canada Geese in our front yard. Sure enough, there they were! I cannot resist saying they were “honkin’” big honkers. They stood around looking very regal, then, proceeded to slowly cross the street onto our neighbour’s lawn. The pair seemed to be surveying the area for a few moments when a boy on a bicycle drove up and scared them away. The one thing that I never expected to see was honkers in our front yard.
I am including two pictures this week. One is of one of the honkers standing in our front yard; the other, is of the pair in our neighbour’s yard. I tried to get a shot of them crossing the street, but I was not able to get my camera focused in time. The pictures that I did get turned out great.
At this time I will bring readers up to date on the division of Canada Geese into two distinct species that I did not mention in article No. 16 – the Canada (same old name) and Cackling. Canada Geese now consist of three subspecies or races distinguished primarily by size. They are: Common/Honker, Dusky and Lesser. The Cackling is divided into four subspecies, also distinguishable only by size. They are: Richardson’s, Taverner’s, Ridgway’s and Aleutian. The differences between the two species are as follows: Canadas have flatter heads, longer beaks and longer necks; Canadas make a “honking” sound, whereas the Cacklings make a “yelping” sound. However, these differences are very subtle. Generally speaking, in a mixed flock of black necked geese with white chin straps, the larger ones are Canada Geese while the smaller ones are Cackling Geese. More specifically, the larger ones are Honkers; the smaller ones are Richardson’s. The good thing is that different subspecies usually do not occur in the same area. To me, they are all still Canada Geese.
The other event is the invasion of our airspace by Franklin’s Gulls. I have not seen this many Franklin’s Gulls since the wet years of the 1950s. They are congregating just east of town near the bio-diesel plant. Gulls are not seed eaters, but they are scavengers and there just might be something worth eating as a result of the activities associated with the bio-diesel plant. Whatever the attraction, they definitely are there! To see all those gulls in the field is a spectacular sight, but the racket they make when they lift off is something else again! Judging by the density of the flock and length of time it takes the flock to fly past a given point, there must be several thousand gulls out there – all in full voice.
As I am writing this piece, the gulls have just lifted off and are flying past my window. Even inside the house the noise is very loud. To the people living on the east side of town, the noise must be getting tiresome. That many birds so close to town can become a real problem. It is not only the nuisance of the constant squawking, but droppings from the flying birds are a concern. Hopefully, once nesting starts, the gulls will go away.