Thursday 18 February 2021

Snow Goose/Blue Goose

Sumas Prairie

Tuesday Feb 16 2021

A large flock of Snow Geese have spent the winter on Abbotsford's Sumas Prairie. A rare occurrence local birders tell me. The winter rye planted by farmers and other left over crops are a good food source for swans, geese and ducks. There are also plenty of fallow fields for the birds to turn over, if the pickings are that good why haven't the Geese been regular visitors in the past? A mystery indeed, if they return next year there may be factors at work that are not yet fully understood. Normally Snow Geese spend their winters in the Skagit Valley and places further south to California. Lesser but increasing numbers winter on the coast around Boundary Bay. 

*Since I published this blog 30 minutes ago it has been brought to my attention by someone who knows more about the subject that there have been a few Snow Geese on the prairie since around 2000 but not in the large numbers seen this year. I stand corrected.

On Tuesday I came across a large flock of perhaps 800-1000 birds. At first they were out of reach for photographs so I just stayed in my car and used my bins to see if there was anything interesting in the flock. The first series of images all turned out as if they had been shot through a mirage. Later I read that it was due due to the heat emanating from the car itself, something I didn't realize until I began editing. Fortunately pictures taken twenty minutes later were sharper as the car had had time to cool down. 
 Eventually as the flock munched their way toward me (a car is the perfect blind) the flock suddenly lifted off the ground and came even closer, close enough to take a few pictures. Had I got out of the car I'm sure I would have flushed the whole flock.

They soon landed back on the same field. 

They were now close enough to study and soon two darker birds stood out, One very dark overall and one an intermediate morph. What a treat to see those birds, it made my day.

 "Blue Goose" 

I believe this an intermediate dark morph. I might be proven wrong..let me know.

Dark morph "Blue Goose" #2

It's hard to believe that a century ago only three thousand Snow Geese were left in North American. They almost followed the Passenger Pigeon on the path to extinction. Like the Trumpeter Swan Snow Geese have made a remarkable comeback. The Passenger Pigeon weren't so fortunate. see the link for the whole sordid story.

More on the Passenger Pigeon

These days, so great are Snow Goose numbers that their breeding grounds in the arctic have become threatened, not only from climate change but from the birds themselves. At least they are tolerated on Sumas Prairie, unlike parts of the US and Canada where hunting up to forty-thousand birds a year is permitted. Meanwhile, enjoy the spectacle, soon they embark on their migratory journey up north.

"It's never too late to morph into something better"
John Gordon
BC Canada

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