Barnacle Goose, Prospect Lake

A Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) hanging out with some Canada Greese (Branta canadensis) on the Lake in Prospect Park. A most uncommon sight in the northeast, since this bird is native to Greenland and Northern Europe. First one I’ve ever seen. Probably the first one ever seen in Prospect.

If you go looking for it, look for the Canadas and the bird watchers:“Barnacle”? For literature fans, there’s Barnacle (né Bollocky) Bill and Nora Barnacle. The OED is stumped (!), noting “origin unknown” before some Late Middle English and Anglo Norman possibilities. The bird was probably named before the crustacean, which may have been named because they (the cemented adult versions of the crustaceans) were thought to be where the birds came from. They had to come from somewhere — right? — and since they disappeared for half a year (in migration), why not emerge from little undersea life forms? (Don’t laugh; tens of millions of Americans will be voting for similar such folklorish/mythological/ magical-thinking in less than two weeks.) Meanwhile, “goose barnacles” are what we call one of the majoring groupings of barnacles. Barnacles and geese share another sizable characteristic, which I will be writing about shortly.

2 Responses to “Barnacle Goose, Prospect Lake”

  1. 1 alphonsegaston October 24, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Ah, yes, the old “toad within the stone” idea. You”re right–we have nothing to feel superior about

    • 2 mthew October 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Lots of fascinating ideas in the past — where they should stay. Pliny the Elder (or Senior as I like to call him) thought sparrows hibernated. He was wrong, they just went south to Africa for the bugs, but in the last century it was discovered that Common Poorwills (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) can go into torpor for weeks; not quite hibernation, but close-ish.

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