Rare geese pay a visit to the valley

Greater White-fronted Geese breakfasting in the San Dieguito River Valley

The Greater White-fronted Goose was a frequent winter visitor to the salt marshes and lakes of southern California until its Pacific coast population was decimated by uncontrolled hunting in the early 20th century. Small flocks still migrate in early fall from western Alaska to winter in northwestern mainland Mexico, using San Diego County as their route to the Pacific coast. But the elegant brown birds with their distinctive orange legs and white rump are rarely seen here, and never more than a few at a time – that is, until this week when a flock of 62 Greater White-fronted geese (including a lone Snow Goose) was seen – and heard – just after sunrise, flying over the San Dieguito River Valley. The honking geese cautiously circled several times before touching down in a vacant horse paddock near San Dieguito Road. The largest previous sighting of the Greater White-fronted Goose in San Diego County was 17 at Sweetwater Reservoir in December 1997.

Update 11/4/22 Since the October 25, 2022 post (above), the local flock of Greater White-fronted geese has increased to over 100 birds with the lone Snow Goose still in the mix. They appear to be commuting between the Del Mar Lagoon (where they spend the late afternoon and night) and the horse farm in Rancho Santa Fe where they land just after dawn.

Lone Snow Goose with 62 close friends
Geese increase: The flock of Greater White-fronted geese flying toward the Del Mar Lagoon on the afternoon of November 4, 2002. Note the Snow Goose in the bottom line of the formation