A Dutch-ringed Barnacle Goose has recently been re-sighted in Henan Province in eastern China, an astonishing 8,200 km from its natal home.
The bird, which is colour-ringed with the combination 'Yellow T Blue V', was ringed as a juvenile male at Westplaat Buitengronden, one of the species' breeding colonies in the south-west of The Netherlands, in July 2019.
It remained in this area throughout the winter, but was last noted on 9 April 2020 and is assumed to have migrated north with a wintering female Barnacle Goose. According to geese.org, a website dedicated to tracking ringed geese and maintained by Dutch organisations Wageningen Environmental Research, SOVON and NIOO, it is not unusual for young male Barnacle Geese from the otherwise-resident Dutch population to disperse to other populations to breed, when they pair with females.
Two Barnacle Geese, one ringed and the other unringed, were then discovered by Chinese birders near the Yellow River in Henan Province in December 2020. The birds were admixing with a large flock of Bean Geese, as well as a few Red-breasted Geese. Eventually the banded bird was seen close enough to read the ring combination on 1 January 2021: amazingly, it was Yellow T Blue V.
Such a feat of vagrancy is unprecedented for a ringed Barnacle Goose. The species is rarely seen east of its traditional range in Russia during the breeding season, although the few records that exist suggest that it does occasionally try to breed further east.
Henk van der Jeugd of NIOO said: "The wintering site of [Yellow T Blue V] in China may indicate that this bird tried to breed somewhere on the Yamal or Taymir peninsula, and migrated south-east instead of south-west during the subsequent autumn. The local birders in Henan will try to keep an eye on it and hopefully more reports of this globetrotter will be entered at geese.org in the future.
"The spectacular observation also shows the value of geese.org in connecting goose-watchers from across the globe. Without a platform like this, the observation might easily have vanished into oblivion."