Snow Geese at Dead Creek


We used to go every year. We got married in mid-October so we would travel past Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, on our way to go hiking in New York, every year. We looked forward to seeing the Snow Geese. There is a wildlife viewing station just off Route 17 and there would be hundreds of them. It was a spectacle.

There would be a blanket of white geese, thousands of them–honking, rising and falling in groups, waves of them landing or taking off. They would cluster right up to the fence at times, pecking away at the residue in the cut corn fields. It was hard to contain it in one’s imagination, let alone absorb the reality of it.

We don’t go hiking in New York every year now, but yesterday morning I went down to Dead Creek to see the geese, the rest of my family still in bed. I was alone there at first, arriving before the sun rose. A flock of Snow Geese was gathered close enough to see them, but they kept their distance from the viewing area. Then they started to rise and fly overhead. They did not take off all at once, but in large groups. They V-ed their way right over me, settling on the other side of the road in a cleared field. Eventually they all had migrated from the south side to the north side.

They flew as the sun broke the horizon, so they were lit from below. Their black wing tips contrasted with the white of their bodies. They honked, higher and a little squeakier than Canada Geese, their calling filling the morning. I looked for other geese, a White-Fronted Goose or a Ross’s Goose mixed in perhaps, but they all were Snow Geese.

By the time I was ready to head out, other people were arriving. I chatted a bit with them. They had missed the Peregrine Falcon perched right overhead, and the chatter of the Red-Winged Blackbirds. I drove up the road a ways to see if could find anything else, but it was a quiet morning. When I passed by again there was a big crowd, there to see the geese. For a while in the golden light of morning I had them all to myself. While there are not nearly as many as there were years ago, it was still a spectacle for a perfect October morning.

Your Standard Fall Day Around Here

Geese are heading south. That’s what they do this time of year. We heard lots of them today. A flock honks its way overhead as I type this. We some a few large flocks of them as we did our things outdoors on this fine fall day.

Headed South, Passing Over Our House

Our neighbor came over this afternoon to mow the wet stretch of our field. We have had cattails galore, not to mention a crazy amount of purple loosestrife, plowing itself down the middle of the field since we moved in, and likely before that. We hired him to get a handle on it. The loosestrife will come back, but it we keep at it we might eventually keep it in check. Ideally the field dries out enough with the tall boys out of there that we can simply mow it and hay it.

Busting Out the Tracks for the Soggy Parts

After the Destruction

We took a walk out t see the effects of the crashing and slashing. We found a vole, hopping about, confused about what the heck just happened. Then we saw a mouse. We had a good look at both of these typically hiding critters as they tried to find a place to hide from the huge beasts on their turf. We also managed to see a small garter snake and a large frog. The latter was a bullfrog, and it was honkin’. Wildlife coming out of the woodwork, so to speak.

Um, Where Did my Habitat Go?

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Shelburne Farms’s Harvest Festival. That always proves to be a fun event. We had corn on the cob–fire-roasted–and watched a play and took a hay ride and got some face painting and checked out the animals and ran into friends. We had a fine time and will go back again next year. On the way home we turned the corner to find the sun pouring down through a hole in the clouds.  It was, as you might imagine, stunning. So far, fall is off to an ideal start. No complaints here.

Busy at Shelburne Farms--Cars and Sheep and People

Bam! Fall Light in its Glory

What’s With the Geese?

Two days ago, early morning, maybe 6:00, I saw a flock of geese flying north. It was a sizable flock and I said aloud to them, “Kind of late, aren’t you kids?”  They ignored me and kept flying.

Maybe 20 minutes later I saw another flock. Within an hour I saw a total of four vees of geese on their way to cooler climes. What gives, I thought that morning.

And I keep seeing them. I saw more yesterday morning, and again this morning. Plus I have seen others later in the day. Today is June 3rd. It seems late for geese to be flying north, at least over the Champlain Valley.

I don’t remember seeing so many geese flying north so late. Aberration? Or poor observation by me in the past? Or both?

Speaking of wildlife, my son and I walked down to the river this afternoon and we got a good look at a green heron. That was a treat. And he learned to recognize a red-winged blackbird today. On my morning runs the past three days I saw a deer who almost, I kid you not, ran into me in the fog as it ran away from other pedestrians; a painted turtle crossing the road; and about 795 rabbits who all of a sudden decided to come out of the woods. Maybe the geese told them to do it.

Whenever I see those rabbits I fear they will find my garden and decide to snack. I sometimes run after them and make monster-like noises. I want them to be afraid of me so they stay away from my precious vegetables. I feel like Farmer McGregor. Hand me my sack, will you?

Damn bunnies. I wish the geese would call them north. Or just eat them. Either way, I’d be good.

Full On Spring

Not Turkeys

Not Turkeys

A few days ago I noted that, from a distance, some newly installed culverts looked like turkeys.  I went and checked them out today and, as you can see, they are not turkeys.  They are not, as I also suggested, made of metal.  They are full on plastic.

Leaves Unfolding

Leaves Unfolding

The trees around here are not leafing out in all their spring glory.  This tree at the end of our driveway has been busting green across the blue sky.  The orioles seem to like this one in particular.

Flooded Fields

Flooded Fields

It rained like stink last night and yesterday afternoon.  We drove home from Burlington My great-grandmother in-law’s 90th birthday celebration)  in the rain to meet our babysitter. The children were asleep, lulled by the drops tickling the windows.  This morning the fields around and about were flooded.  The beavers and the geese are loving that.

Laplatte River Running High

Laplatte River Running High

The river was full this morning as well–more than your usual CFS flowing under the bridge.  Our friend Kathy came for the night but she had to leave before we took this walk.  She arrived just before 2:30 AM from a late flight to the Burlington airport.  She left about 10:30.  Only and eight hour visit and most of that asleep.  I trust she enjoyed the fine spring day with her daughter when she got home to the Upper Valley.  It would be hard not to enjoy this day.  It was full on spring and, I am pretty sure this is true everywhere, was plain old beautiful.

No Geese

My wife and I took a trip down to Addison today to see the geese.  We have gone down there for the past 14 years to see them.  Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area is a stop for thousands of migrating waterfoul and often this time of year the fields and the sky are filled with birds.  But no dice today.

Sometimes when we drive near the parking/viewing area we can see the birds from miles away.  Sometimes we can hear them long before we get there.  Today it looked like we would get little viewing for our efforts.  There have been years when the snow geese are lined up against the fence, rising and landing in groups among the larger flock.  Today there seemed to be just a few small groups in the far distance.  A few would rise and settle again, but we could see only a couple dozen against the tall grass.

If we were quiet enough we could hear them honking.  A couple flocks of ducks fluttered in.  We sat and listened and watched and talked quietly about the beauty of the place and the times we had visited in the past.  We talked about why the birds might gather some times and not others when we have visited on the same weekend every year.  Does it have to do with high or low pressure in the atmosphere?  Does air temperature affect when they fly?  Is climate change a factor?  We had no answers.

We may visit again in the next week or two, take the kids down to see if we have better luck.  Perhaps, however, we will wait until next year.  We like to see them, but we are in no rush.  I know they will come back.  So we will too.