Brant are geese that breed in the Arctic. Many of them spend the winter in New England and massive flocks may be found at various coastal sites in the region. One of those sites is Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Connecticut, where flocks numbering in the thousands hug the coast.
A quick visit to the park yesterday yielded a staggering number of brant. The birds were eating grass in the lawn areas of the park and were surprisingly tolerant of humans walking and jogging close by. Typically, the brant are seen on the beach near the water or on the water of Long Island Sound. Perhaps the birds were more tolerant because they are filling up for the pending migration. Just a thought.
Not all brant will depart at the same time. I’ve seen brant along the Connecticut coast as late as June. Those stragglers are likely young brant that aren’t ready to mate. At any rate, it’s nice to see the brant every year and they add a reliable bit of wildness to our coasts in the winter and spring.
Brant are often confused with Canada geese, but there are obvious differences. Brant are smaller and darker overall and do not have trademark white “chin strap” of the Canada goose. They do have a white marking under their chins, but it is not as large and pronounced as that of the Canada goose. The brants’ call is also croakier and quieter than the loud honk of the Canada goose.
For now, brant are still around in large numbers, which is good for New England birdwatchers. Many of them will depart shortly for points well north. Then we’ll be left to keep an eye out for the stragglers — or wait until late fall.
Here is a photograph showing a small portion of the flock.
Here is a shot of Canada geese, for the sake of comparison.