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Two migratory geese decide to stay a while in San Diego

This snow goose has decided that Chollas Lake is a good place to stay a while.
This snow goose has decided that Chollas Lake is a good place to stay a while.
Darlene Luckins

San Diego is a popular place for birds to travel through during the migration season. Every once in a while, some of these migrating birds decide that they don’t want to leave right away. There may be several reasons why a bird will stop migrating or stay in one area for a long time. They could be injured, sick, or old. Or, there might not be any reason at all. Such is the case with two birds that both come from highly migratory species that have decided that San Diego is a place to stay for the long term.

The first resident is a greater white-fronted goose that has been at Lindo Lake in Lakeside for a couple of years now. These birds pass through the county every year, usually in the east county or mountain areas. Some will stay for the season and some will continue on to Mexico. In the summer, they breed in the high arctic. They also are common throughout Siberia, Asia and Europe. It is closely related to the wild graylag goose of the old world and ancestor to many different types of domestic farm geese. The goose at Lindo Lake likes to stick with these close relatives and appears to be healthy and content living there.

The second unusual migratory bird that has decided to stay in San Diego for a while is a single snow goose at Chollas Lake. Snow geese generally travel in large flocks. Like the greater white-fronted goose, it frequently travels through San Diego County, but generally sticks to the eastern side of the county or the mountains. However, they are seen nearer to the coast as well. The usually winter near the Salton Sea, along the Gulf of Mexico coast, or in Mexico among a few other places. But, they almost never stop at the small "pond" of Chollas Lake. Usually, snow geese don’t stay in one place for more than a few days or week, but this one has stayed there for several months. It hangs out with the white domestic graylag geese. Since winter isn’t over, yet, it may still migrate back north to the high arctic to breed.

Both birds are easily accessible and easy to photograph. Being healthy, they can leave at any time and may be here one day, gone the next.