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A Rare Blue

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

If you're going to brag on your big sweetie, Valentine's Day is as good a day as any. I owe Bill of the Birds a life morph. For those of you who aren't avid birders, and who don't split lifelisting hairs, a life morph is a color phase of a species that you've never seen before. The flocks of snow and Ross' geese at Bosque del Apache NWR are fairly ubiquitous, and their members can number in the tens of thousands. The vast majority of those tens of thousands are white-morph birds. Big white goose=Snow goose. Little white goose=Ross' goose. Most people don't bother to comb through them. Bill did. And he found a bird that set the refuge afire: a blue morph Ross' goose.

Ross' geese are like shrinky-dink snow geese. Much smaller, more compact, much cuter, actually, with pushed-in faces and stubby pink and blue bills. Both snow and Ross' geese come in a blue morph, which can breed with the white morphs and are in every way still snow or Ross' geese, except for their plumage color. It's like red or gray morph screech owls--just a different color of the same species, nothing more.

Blue morph snow geese are not as common as white morph, but they're tolerably common and easy to find. Here's one.This blue goose's underwing is a map of color-coded feathers. Look at those gorgeous underwing coverts, especially the ovoid pad of axillars, which are long, flexible, gossamer- textured feathers in the wingpit, that serve to contour the bird in flight, so wind doesn't eddy in the angle between wing and body. Lovely!

And here's a blue goose flying with a snow goose, perhaps its mate or its parent.Blue morph Ross' geese are another thing altogether. Very, very rare.

Here it is: the hopelessly sharp and classy little blue-morph Ross' goose that Bill found, rarest of the rare. Sorry it's so blurry, but it was a long, long way off. That's a white-morph Ross' in the foreground.
Here's another shot, in which you can see a great big white-morph snow goose in the upper left, and a white-morph Ross' next to the blue Ross'. I was stunned by the beauty of the rare blue bird, really more black than blue, with its zippy black-drawn tertials, its perfect white head, and clean markings. Thanks, Bill of The Birds.
That about does it for the New Mexico posts. Sorry I'm jumping around so much lately, taking old preserves off the pantry shelf. We're getting ready for two trips back-to-back and our lives are like a whirling wind tunnel leading to those departures. Imagine going from the humid lowlands of Guatemala to the frigid, windswept plains of Nebraska in March without even getting to come home to change out your suitcase. That's what happens when you book a festival two years in advance. Another life lesson for the Chimp.


Don't apologize for jumping around from pantry to "as it happens". That's what I like about you. There's always something wonderful stored up the Chimp's sleeve...

You and BOTB both rock. Happy Valentines Day!

Rarest of the rare, indeed. Lovely, lovely goose. Thanks for showing us all the differences, you are such a resource.

What a great find. We have had several thousand Snow Geese flying around our corner of the world lately. I would be thrilled to see a White morph Ross' Goose let alone a Blue morph.

Happy Valentines Day to you and BOTB. Thanks for the Blue Goose.

I feel like I have just had a Latin lesson. Where would science be without that language?
As for taking things off the shelf--well, spring is coming and you need to do some cleaning out to get the house ready.

Ah, KG Mom--I just re-read the post and find it almost completely in Chimpese. A thousand apologies. One shouldn't have to read a blog with dictionary in hand. But morph and axillary are such lovely words! Morph! Axillary! Use both in a sentence! As in:

My axillary hair has morphed into something unholy!

What an eye to find that gem in the midst of all the other morphs, not so rare. A beautiful bird. A wonderful Valentine's Day to you and BOTB.

Thanks for the ValDay post Science Chimp. And thank the heavens for our walkie talkies, or I would have not been able to get you on the blue Ross' @ Bosque.

It was a lucky find and a beautiful bird. Glad we got to share it.

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