Snow Goose Fes­ti­val

Serve Daily - - INSIDE - By Ed Helmick for Serve Daily

We are lucky in Utah to have nearby one of the largest an­nual mi­gra­tion vis­its of Snow Geese in the United States. From Mid-Fe­bru­ary to Mid-March an es­ti­mated 20,000 Snow Geese stop for rest and nour­ish­ment at the Gun­ni­son Bend Reser­voir west of Delta, Utah. This species of goose, na­tive to North Amer­ica, is all white ex­cept for black wing tips and un­der­wings that are barely vis­i­ble on the ground. An oc­ca­sional vari­ant is seen with gray/blue plumage. The birds leave the lake early in the morn­ing to feed in the lo­cal farm fields and re­turn to the lake mid-morn­ing; fly­ing off again late af­ter­noon to feed in the fields be­fore re­turn­ing to the lake again. The snow geese are on their 3,000-mile mi­gra­tion back to the Cana­dian Arc­tic af­ter win­ter­ing in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia and Mex­ico.

My wife and I dis­cov­ered this amaz­ing nat­u­ral event last year when we saw an ad for the “Delta Snow Goose Fes­ti­val.” The 2018 Snow Goose Fes­ti­val is sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary 23 and 24. Last year we chose to go out on a non-fes­ti­val day to avoid the crowds be­cause we thought that would be bet­ter for my pho­to­graphic in­ter­est. We had a lit­tle dif­fi­culty in find­ing the Gun­ni­son Bend Reser­voir and I fi­nally con­ceded to my wife and asked di­rec­tions. When we ar­rived at the lake the half dozen peo­ple we saw were anx­iously await­ing the re­turn of the snow geese from their morn­ing feed­ing. Soon we be­gan to hear the honk­ing sound of in­bound geese. Then we saw what looked like a faint cloud mov­ing to­ward us. Even­tu­ally, we saw in­di­vid­ual birds, hun­dreds of them. They cir­cled the lake sev­eral times be­fore the flock landed as a large clus­ter of birds. Then it was quiet again. The birds kept them­selves close to­gether on the wa­ter a white is­land on the lake. What an in­cred­i­ble sight.

Then some­one told us that fur­ther around the lake was an even larger clus­ter of snow geese. What we found was a clus­ter of birds that must have num­bered in the thou­sands. I had to put a wide an­gle lens on the cam­era to show the ex­panse of birds tightly spread across the sur­face of the wa­ter. From a dis­tance, the birds ap­peared to be bob­bing qui­etly in a rest­ful state.

We moved to an­other por­tion of the lake where we spot­ted a smaller clus­ter of birds, maybe 200 to 300, that were fairly close to the shore­line with the sun to our back. With binoc­u­lars and a tele­photo lens on the cam­era, we could eas­ily see in­di­vid­ual birds and their be­hav­ior. There was quite a va­ri­ety in size and ma­tu­rity of the birds. I have read that the av­er­age Snow Goose weighs about 6 pounds. Most of them were not in a state of rest and in fact were mov­ing around within their group quite a bit. As we watched the wind drifted the group of birds close to the shore­line to our left and the whole group turned into the wind to pad­dle back to our right.

Oc­ca­sion­ally one or two of the larger birds would rise up out of the wa­ter with out­stretched wings. This is a pretty im­pres­sive sight with the black un­der­side of the of Af­ter about wing sev­eral three show­ing feet. hours and a of typ­i­cal watch­ing wing­span this group of snow geese some­thing spooked them and in a mat­ter of sec­onds sev­eral hun­dred very vo­cal birds took to the air. A quick splash with their feet and wings flap­ping this mass of geese took off a few hun­dred yards in front of us. What an in­cred­i­ble wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence. A sight and sound we will re­mem­ber for­ever.

Photo: Ed Helmick

Snow Geese take flight

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