Spring migration is a process, not an event. But among the very first birds to appear in spring migration are the Snow Geese. And the thing about Snow Geese is that there are a lot of them. WC and Mrs. WC were birding at Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area1 recently. Fort Boise WMA is a maze of canals, sloughs and seasonal channels where the Boise River meets the Snake River.
This was less than a tenth of the birds present. Words like “huge” are simply inadequate to describe the numbers of Snow Geese moving through on their way to breeding grounds on the arctic tundra.
Something, probably a passing hawk, put the flock up, filling the skies with honking huge numbers of alarmed Snow Geese.
The occasional darker bird you can pick out is a dark phase or “blue” Snow Goose. There are probably a few Ross’s Geese in there, too, but they are pretty difficult to pick out in the best of circumstances.
Snow Geese are among the most abundant waterfowl in North America, numbering at more than five million, and increasing by three percent or so a year. There are too many, if anything, damaging the grassy ecozones in the Arctic, making it less productive for themselves and other Arctic breeding species.
Still, as a sign of spring this is pretty emphatic: several thousand noisy birds, going about the ancient business of heading north to breed.
- Note for non-Idahoans. A “wildlife management area” (usually abbreviated “WMA”) is an Idaho euphemism for “place to shoot waterfowl.” Other uses – like birding – are tolerated, so long as they don’t interfere with the hunting. ↩