Wiscasset birder has ‘once in a lifetime’ sighting

Sat, 03/28/2020 - 9:45am

Downtown March 22, Wiscasset’s Loretta Leighton saw a kind of bird she didn’t know. So she messaged sister Rhonda Hamlin, who has taken up birding and photography. “My new hobby,” Hamlin, also of Wiscasset, said.

Hamlin brought a camera with her. She could not name the bird, either. So she posted photos on Maine Birds, a Facebook group she is in. “Immediately I received an answer and was told how rare they are,” Hamlin said in texts March 24. She said it was an anser brachyrhynchus, or pink-footed goose. “When I was told ... I became very excited” and began researching it, she said. “I was asked where it was and others headed over to see it.”

Found in and near Europe, pink-footed geese are “really rare” to see in the U.S., Hamlin said. She said there have been ones who followed Canada geese and she believed this one likely continued on to Canada. Concord, New Hampshire had a sighting the same time as Wiscasset’s, she added.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience. I am still smiling.” She hasn’t seen the bird since. “I thought it very unique that it chose to stop in Wiscasset for a day.” She and others got to see it thanks to that message from Leighton, Hamlin noted. “If not for her, I would have never seen this bird. Probably no one else would have either.”

According to audubon.org, the species migrates across the North Atlantic to winter in England and northwestern Europe. “Strays ... have been found in North America only a couple of times ...”

Leighton said the bird she and her sister saw became a celebrity, attracting birders to town even the next morning.  “I guess he (was) alone and practicing social distancing, all the way from Europe, ha ha.”

Hamlin got into her new hobby after brother Kenneth Morse invited her to join Maine Birds. “Seeing other people's pictures I really got interested in the birds,” she said. “I bought a camera and lenses and started traveling around trying to find and photograph the birds that were posted. I was looking for something for a hobby. It gets me outside and I am getting all kinds of exercise,” she added.