Lethbridge bird watcher spots goose with Russian background among estimated 60,000 birds

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WATCH: A Lethbridge bird watcher came across an estimated 60,000 snow geese at a southern Alberta lake on Sunday, but it was the discovery of one specific goose that lead him to some amazing information. With more on the goose chase, here’s Danica Ferris. – Apr 8, 2020

Lethbridge bird watcher Ken Orich has seen a lot of unique things in his years of birding, but Sunday at Stafford Lake he made a discovery that was unique, even for him.

“Every time you go out birding, it’s like, what kind of a treasure are you going to find today — it’s like a treasure hunt,” Orich said.

Sunday’s treasure was bountiful for Orich, who came across what he estimates to be roughly 60,000 snow geese migrating north.

“They winter in the southern states and the Gulf of Mexico… and on their way north they use the Lethbridge area as a stop-over to rest and grub up,” he said.

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But a discovery during his excursion on Sunday gave the southern Albertan an idea of just how far of a journey these birds could be on.

On the shores of Stafford Lake through his spotting scope, Orich noticed a standout goose.

“There was one goose that was collared, it had a red collar on it’s neck,” he said, “and we were able to make out the numbers.”

He took the band number online, and through the Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey he was sent a certificate with the bird’s information.

The female goose was banded more than two years ago, on an island off the north coast of Russia.

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“I don’t know if that particular goose is going back to where it was banded or not, but they do move some pretty great distances during migration,” he said.

Wrangle Island is located in the Arctic Ocean more than 4,000 km away from Lethbridge.

Where the thousands of snow geese headed after leaving Lethbridge, he will never know. But Orich said the unique find was like striking gold.

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“It’s almost impossible to capture it on video or in a still photograph. It’s something to experience.

“Just the sheer magnitude and the wonder of nature… I never get tired of it,” he said.