This article first appeared in the Annual Report of the Birmingham (latterly West Midland) Bird Club for 1941. Spellings and bird names as given.
NOTES ON THE STATUS OF GEESE IN WARWICKSHIRE.
By C. A. NORRIS.
Owing to the difficulty that exists in identifying geese, which are in the main, non-stop migrants, the exact status of Geese in general and Grey Geese in particular has long been a matter of doubt. The following notes do at least improve on Tomes' statements in the Victoria County History of 1904, where of the four species of Grey Geese not one positive record is given, The White Fronted Goose being dismissed with "A straggler only to the county".
It is unfortunate that for the Grey Lag Goose nothing beyond Tomes' note, "Formerly an occasional visitor, but now unknown to the county," can be added. I have found no record or proof of its ever having been even an occasional visitor, though this seems not improbable if the word "formerly" is extended sufficiently far back.
The white-fronted Goose has been twice recorded since Tomes time. In British Birds Vol. IV., pg. 107., it is stated "one shot by Mr. P. Baker at Earlswood, Warwicks, and others reported. No dates given." In 1939 following extensive flooding in the Avon valley a party of five of these birds arrived on Jan. 17 on the meadows above Alveston Wier. They remained there for four days and were seen repeatedly by Col. Brocklebank and M. Kemble.
Tomes stated of the Bean Goose that of the flights of wild geese that pass over, a few drop out and after a rest renew their journey. Individuals of this species were most frequently known to have done so. To that I can add nothing, but point out that no positive records of this species either before or after 1904 have been found by me.
The Pink-footed Goose is given much the same status as the Bean by Tomes but he adds that it must be regarded as of very rare occurance in the county. Since 1904 1 have only two positive records of this species. About Jan. 13, 1939, M. Kemble saw a flight of nine birds which passed quite close ever him when he was on the road between Alveston and Charlecote Park, whilst on Jan. 23 seven arrived on the meadow at Alveston, vacated only four days before by the White-fronts, and remained there for a week, where they were seen and shot at by a number of people but without apparent damage to the birds.
Before passing to the Black geese it is well to consider the many reports of grey geese and their passage across the county. Nearly all the records indicate that the direction of migration is from east to west, whilst farmers and other people in the Avon valley all point out that they follow the river down. These flocks are far less rare than is generally supposed and it is certain that in some years many hundreds pass down the Severn estuary. Whilst the evidence points to an almost regular movement from north-east to south-west there is practically no evidence of a return migration and it is of interest to note that the autumn and winter records far outnumber those in the Spring.
The Barnacle Goose according to Tomes was "of very uncertain appearance, indeed a mere straggler," and to this I can add nothing. The Brent Goose have caused no little trouble particularly on account of F. Colburn's statement in the "Zoologist" of 1898 and elsewhere, on what he reported to be an adult male Black Brent which was shot on November 6, 1897. Subsequent investigation of Colburn's Black Brents showed that they were in fact Dark Breasted Brents, (British Birds, Vol. 22, pg. 91). Of more recent date there are two Brent records, that from Bartley on March 23, 1934, of which the race is not recorded and that of a party of ten which stayed for a few hours on the Alveston river meadows on Jan. 25, 1941. Of this party one was shot and its sub-specific status definitely determined. Both this bird and the other nine were of the dark brested form.
Of the Canada Goose Tomes states that it has several times been shot in the county, once at Chesterton. It would seem to have been less common formerly than it is today. It was recorded from Middleton Hall in 1895 and nested in Edgbaston Park in 1886 and 1940. In recent years it has received a considerable degree of protection at Combe Abbey where I have seen as many as forty birds, These inevitably stray and it is probably from here that most Warwickshire birds originate.
Geese in Worcestershire, 1942.
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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