Photo: John Deitsch This rare bird, known as a Ross's Goose, was spotted at Sims Lake Park in Suwanee. According to www.birdinginformation.com, it's the rarest and smallest North American goose.
SUWANEE -- A rare goose sighting at Sims Lake Park has caused a ripple of excitement among local avian enthusiasts.
On Wednesday, 13-year-old John Deitsch arrived at the local park, excited beyond belief at the prospect of photographing what is considered one of the rarest geese in North America.
Earlier in the week, Sandy Dearth, a fellow member of Lawrenceville-based Southern Wings Bird Club first spotted the white waterfowl. According to Deitsch, it was the second ever sighting in Gwinnett County of what is known as the Ross's Goose.
The local club's president, John Shauger, said it appeared this particular bird had taken a shine to a family of Canada Geese.
"If it hadn't been adopted by this group of geese, it wouldn't have ever let us get so close," said Shauger, explaining that the Ross's Goose is notorious for keeping its distance from photographers. "Normally, they're much more shy and afraid of people. I guess maybe it's acting more like the Canada Geese than its own kind. It seems to follow them around."
When asked to describe the Mallard-sized waterfowl, Shauger took a long, thoughtful pause.
"It's just so beautiful," he said.
According to Deitsch, the Ross's Goose is all white with black wing tips and a stubby, pink bill. It feeds on aquatic vegetation and normally spends the winter in the Texas/Oklahoma area.
Deitsch said it's possible that the bird "could have been blown out of its normal migration pathway by a storm."
Whatever its reason for winding up in local waters, Deitsch and roughly 25 fellow members of the Southern Wings Bird Club are thrilled that it chose somewhere close.
Few were more excited than 13-year-old Deitsch, who was able to successfully photograph the bird on Wednesday from several different angles. The young man, who has been birding for nearly five years and has identified 167 avian species, is no amateur. It takes something quite unusual to impress him.
The Ross's Goose certainly did.
"It was really, really cool," Deitsch said.
For more information about the Southern Wings Bird Club, visit www.southernwingsbc.com.