Sunday 30 March 2014

The Taiga Bean Geese in Worcestershire

Taiga Bean Goose (adult) - Kemerton, Worcestershire
Photo by Dave Hutton

The Bean Goose is a very scarce winter visitor to the West Midland region (Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands). Almost all of our records which have been assigned to a specific race have been of the Tundra Bean Goose Anser fabalis rossicus that visits Britain in small numbers each winter and breeds on the Russian tundra east to the Taimyr Peninsula. 

There has only been one previous accepted sighting of Taiga Bean Goose Anser fabalis fabalis for the entire region. This occurred on the 8th January 2006 when one graced Defford Airport in Worcestershire for just one day. Unfortunately this was unavailable to the masses and only a few lucky Worcestershire birders got to see it.  To be honest I have always had doubts about this record ever since I spied a photo of it in the West Midland Bird Club Annual Report No. 73. The bird looks far too compact, thick-necked and round headed for a Taiga Bean Goose to me however I did not see it in the field.

Taiga Bean Goose (adult) - Kemerton, Worcestershire
Photo by Dave Hutton

Due to their rarity in the Midlands, Dave Hutton and I decided to pay them a visit late on Sunday afternoon. They were soon located in an adjacent winter wheat field close to the Kemerton Lakes Nature Reserve in the company of a mixed group of feral Greylag Geese and Canada Geese. As you can see from Dave's excellent photographs there is no disputing these as Taiga Bean Geese. Both birds were similar in stature to the accompanying Greylag Geese and are much heftier looking than any Pink-footed Goose shaped Tundra Bean Goose. Note the long, swan-like neck, the long, less triangular-shaped bill and the bulging breast.

Taiga Bean Goose (adult) - Kemerton, Worcestershire
Photo by Dave Hutton

The Taiga Bean Goose breeds in the Scandinavian taiga zone east to the Urals. In Britain there are two wintering flocks which have remained faithful to the same areas for a number of years. Around 70 to 120 individuals winter from November to February in the Yare Valley in Norfolk, England whilst a more substantial flock of around 180 to 270 birds can be found on the Slamannan Plateau in central Scotland from October to February. Worryingly numbers contained in both flocks seem to be dwindling as the years go by. Both Taiga Bean Geese and Tundra Bean Geese are classified as separate species by the American Ornithologist's Union however we are yet to adopt the same approach in Britain. It is certainly a good candidate for an 'armchair tick' in the future though.

TAIGA BEAN GOOSE in the West Midlands Region

2014 - Worcestershire - Kemerton (2 x adults) from 27th March to 31st March then relocated to Slimbridge WWT, Gloucestershire.
2006 - Worcestershire - Defford Airport (adult) on the 8th January only.

No comments:

Post a Comment