Emperor Goose
Bodega Bay, Sonoma County
Friday, 4 January 2002
Joseph Morlan

Photos © 31 December 2001 by Woody Boston, Rohnert Park, Ca.
Today Robbie Fischer and I decided to drive to Bodega Bay in search of the Emperor Goose which had reportedly been found 23 December 2001 by David DeSante and which had been seen by numerous observers since. We arrived about noon. First we checked Westside County Park were we met two other birders who had seen the bird north of there earlier in the morning, but we were unable to locate it. We then checked the east shore of Bodega Harbor and the Doran County Park area without success. However the ranger at Doran said the bird had been seen across the Bay earlier in the day. We decided to return to the other side where we met Dan Singer who had been searching for the bird without success.

Fortunately we encountered Rick LeBadour who kindly showed us the bird in the midst of a large flock of Brant in the middle of the Bay. We eventually got closer views of the bird from the walkway outside Mason's Marina and also viewed the bird from the East Shore north of the Tide's Wharf Restaurant. We spent about an hour from 2-3pm viewing the bird through various spotting scopes.

The following description is based on notes made while watching the bird:

A small goose slightly larger than adjacent Brant, but with white head and grayish body.

On closer views and in good light, extensive black scaling was visible on the body with white highlights accenting the dark fringes to the body feathers. The bill was short and stubby, pink on the upper mandible, black on the lower, with a dark nail at the tip. The nostril appeared dark. The head and the back of the neck were white, but the chin, throat and foreneck were black. The eye was dark but a faint gray line appeared between the eye and the bill which may have been a crease in the feathers. The tail was all white, but the entire underparts of the bird were dark, including the undertail coverts. The legs appeared orange.

The bird spent part of the time asleep, but awoke periodically. When sleeping the bird was extremely difficult to pick out from any distance.

Special thanks to Rick LeBadour for finding the bird for us.