Sunday, January 31, 2021

Lesser Snow Goose - Blue Morphs and Other Variations

Several weeks ago I visited the Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR and saw and photographed snow geese for the first time. I assumed they were snow geese, but knew nothing about them. Afterwards, in reviewing my photos and doing a post I learned that there are white morphs and blue morphs and I'd only seen white morphs. Further, in photographing the geese, except during flight, I had few good individual photos of specific geese. With a long 600 mm lense it lends itself to much of the photo being in a blur. I decided I needed to go back and see them again. My main goal was to find and photograph a blue morph. I also wanted to get better individual photos of geese, including snow geese in their various stages of  color and development and I wanted to see and photograph a Ross's goose, basically a smaller version of the snow goose (that will be another post). 

Blue morphs, instead of being mostly white, have gray plumage except head, neck and tail tip. All About Birds also notes an intermediate morph that has less gray and more white than the blue morph, particularly white on the belly. Judy accompanied me this time. We drove first to Unit 1 which is off the dirt Vendel Road, accessed by Bannister Road off Hwy 86, at the south end of the Salton Sea. I passed by on Bannister Road on my first visit and did not have time to stop. Driving in we saw snow geese foraging on the east side of the road in a field and stopped while Judy lowered her car window and took photographs while I also tried taking photos through the car through her window. I spotted a blue morph and focused on it, but none of my photos turned out well. Later at what I assume is Unit 2, near the visitors center, I saw two (or three at most) blue morphs mixed in among the hundreds of other white morphs. At least in that area at that time, the blue morphs are a rarity. 
This blurry photo of a blue morph (or at least intermediate morph) was taken off Vendel Road. The next photo is the same goose. 

This photo, taken near the visitors center, shows the blue (or intermediate) morph among the white morphs. The next three photos are of the same goose. 

This intermediate morph has much more white (much less gray). 

This juvenile is a blue morph, or at least intermediate morph. 
The next photos are of white morphs, including juvenile white morphs that have dusky gray on their head, neck and wings and dusky gray bill and feet. Their heads can be stained yellow, or rusty-brown, from minerals in the soil where they feed. The geese were closer to the Rock Hill Trail so that helped in getting better focused individual photoes. 

This photo has a closer view of the bill and reveals the black grin patch. 


1 comment:

  1. There is sure a lot of variety. I love the ones with the white heads and the brown creeping up the neck. The brown feathers are so glossy. These pictures of all the geese make me think of children's stories--Mother Goose, Beatrix Potter, etc.