Swede Joakim Haeggman had a showdown with a goose as David Higgins led the Irish challenge in the Open de Andalucia.
The Waterville man birdied two of the last three holes to open with a three under par 69 at Aloha near Marbella.
And that left him just four shots behind surprise leader Matthew Zions of Australia on a day when Haeggman was 'goosed' on his way to a 67 and a share of third place.
Haeggman explained: "The goose came over to me and at first I laughed about it. But when I put my hand down it wanted to have a go at it and I had to give it a slap across the face.
"| had no choice. It's the first time I've ever had to slap a goose on a golf course."
Q-School graduate Zions, 28, had eight birdies in a fine 65 to lead by a stroke on seven under par from Spaniard Alejandro Canizares.
It was also a good day for Higgins, who needs to take advantage of a rare European Tour start after losing his card last season.
There were signs of a return to form for Paul McGinley as he mixed four birdies with three bogeys in a one under par 71.
The Dubliner, 40, needs to improve quickly as he sits 113th in the world rankings and a lowly 109th on the Order of Merit after seven events.
Knightsbrook's Damien McGrane struggled to a level par 72 , the same mark as tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez and England's Lee Westwood.
Westwood and McGinley are the only members of last year's winning Ryder Cup side to fail to qualify for this week's Players at Sawgrass.
The pair will be in action in the Irish Open alonside defending champion Thomas Bjorn at Adare Manor next week.
The Dane hit a 71 just days after having a cast removed from his wrist after a fall while giving a television interview at home in Wentworth.
He said: "The wrist was a little bit stiff this morning but I need to get it warm this week because I'm not sure it's going to be so warm next week."