By Sally O’Byrne – Teacher Naturalist
The Snow Goose trip, twice postponed because of rain, finally went this evening with snow flurries in the forecast. Driving along rural roads near Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, we spied blankets of geese foraging in far-off fields. Knowing it was getting towards dusk, we entered Bombay Hook as the first of the geese arrived, swirling above the impoundments before they settled for the night, joining a small group of Tundra Swans swimming in a stately procession. Mary, one of the the participants, hoped to see American Avocets and she wasn’t disappointed – a flock was in its usual place and position – the black and white striped birds with their upcurved bills all facing the same direction.
We moved from Raymond Pool to Shearness, taking a chance that we would be leaving the best of the geese behind. A good move since Shearness had more Snow Geese already in the water and huge numbers approaching from the setting sun. Canada Geese lined the mudflats in the rear, Northern Pintails nearing breeding plumage were in the foreground, and Green-winged Teal were sprinkled throughout.
I broke out the pumpkin cake and coffee, and we watched from the warmth of the van as thousands and thousands more Snow Geese arrived. As the sun set, groups of geese rose and settled multiple times as ducks flew up, out, and back into the quiet of the marsh.
Just as the light was dimming and the birds were quieting, black clouds hovered and sealed the night. As we started the van, snow flurries chased us out of the refuge and a last fast blitz of snow reflected in our headlights as we drove through the night back to Ashland.