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Thread subject: In search of SNOW GEESE.
Name Date Message
Marie 11/21/05 01:19 am Last evening I sat here for one hour and tried to write about my excursion on Friday to the mainland to search for Snow Geese...well, I became so tired that I couldn't think strait especially when it came to saving my BLOG. So, you can imagine when I closed off my computer it all disappeared. I will now try again.

The Pacific flyway is a migratory corridor for many birds but particularly for the Snow Geese. Thousands upon thousands of post breeding Snow Geese leave Wrangle Island in Siberia to fly 4000 kms to the Fraser River Delta. This immensely fertile area of Vancouver, on the mainland of Canada, is a welcomed stop over for these geese. Many travel non-stop for 2000 kms if the winds are favorable. Their presence in the sky and delightful chatter as they fly over before settling in some farmer's field or at the foreshore, is simply a joy to behold. These medium size white geese with black wing tips fill the skies of Vancouver during the later part of October, all of November and the first half of December. Then they depart to Washington and California. The province of Alberta honours these geese with a festival in April. This W/E is seen to be the pinnacle of the migration for the Snow Geese in the Vancouver area. Friday was a holiday day off from work so I has set this day aside for an outing to Vancouver. I was on a mission to go in search of Snow Geese.
My photographer friend David joined me. We set off on the 9am ferry accompanied by heavy skies above and calm waters below. The 90 min crossing was uneventful. No wind and no rain! I did see a few adult eagles, cormorants and loons fishing in the waters between the Gulf Islands. Once we had disembarked we headed toward Reifel Bird Sanctuary, a 20 minute drive away. A solitary Red-tail Hawk,sitting close to a large nest in a tall fir, greeted us with its familiar raspy, movie background scream. Very few people were out for the day at the Sanctuary. There was ample time and room to saunter the various trails that connected lakes, ponds and the birds with humanity. Lots of variety of duck swam on the many ponds. Areas of treed trails led one to thickets of sparrows, towhees and chickadees. In a distant thicket we caught site of a Black-crowned night Heron fast asleep after a night of hunting. We had purchased four bags of bird feed at the entrance so we were prepared for the chickadees that were bold enough to land on our hands and take only the sunflower seeds. It was so nice to be with the birds again.
The skies above us remained cloudy and dull. There was no sign of the snow geese. Where were they? It didn't take long before we heard the roar of a thousand geese way off at the foreshore. We could tell they were being harassed. We later saw four eagles patrolling. Their presence caused the geese to rise on mass, swirling like ribbons trailing from a kite. It was an awesome sight. The tide was way out so we knew the geese were not going to visit the fields around the Sanctuary. Lady Luck was keeping a low profile for us or was she?. With the shorter daylight hours in November we knew we didn't have a great deal of time to find a way to the foreshore, so we opted to stay and search for Saw-whet owls, and Sandhill Cranes and any other specialities that frequent this nature reserve. After a search we came up with no OWLS, but soon we heard the distinct call of the Sandhills. It was tantalizing, for one minute their sound came form one direction and we hurried down a trail only to have the sound repeated from another direction. Up and down several trails we walked. Eventually we found ourselves at the lookout tower and there standing tall and elegant in the shallow water of a sizable pond were three Sandhill Cranes. They were silhouettes preening in the glare on the water that had been created by the sudden appearance of the sun. We stood there watching in awe when three more Sandhills flew in to join this family group. Six beautiful cranes, 46 inches tall with long legs stood looking at us. No wonder we heard cranes from two directions. Our cameras were set to capture this event. These birds seemed to know exactly how to stand, how to put their best foot forward, show their best profile and select their most attractive preening stance. Their long legs and long pointed bills gave these mostly grey birds, with a slightly rust stained wash over their flank feathers, a rather regal appearance. A red heart -shaped crown that is apparent when they lower their heads to feed makes these birds rather special. They were a delight to watch. One family group slowly waded closer to us. The other group, a wild bunch, wandered off into the vegetation around the pond/lake. The male of the threesome heading our way, a familiar crane to the sanctuary, approached me because I had a little brown paper bag clutched in my hand. He also recognized what that little brown bag contained. He knew from experience. His mate and their offspring stayed a comfortable distance. Three feet separated them from us. Meanwhile the male came closer and it occurred to me that he wanted something I had. Cautiously I opened my bag and poured some seed onto my palm. At arms length the crane selected what he wanted from the assortment of seeds and corn on my hand. I was stunned and thankful for he was so gentle with that long pointed bill of his. I crouched down to be closer making sure my movements were slow and quiet. I wasn't able to hold this position for long due to my knee problem but the time together was exquisite. He certainly wanted lots of seed so alternated between David and I, giving both of us time to capture this on film/memory card etc. At times during this commune, we could see the snow geese lift into the air, way off in the distance. Their white bodies illuminated by the sunshine that was now filling a cloudless sky. The familiar roar of Snow Geese lifting and being harassed, filled our ears. We caught sight of eagles, a Harrier and a Red- tailed Hawk sweeping low over the marsh. Long-billed Dowichers flew in to our cosy corner by the tower to watch the cranes. The greedy Mallards were crowding our feet as they tried to snatch my bag of seed. It was suddenly getting too crowded for all of us and especially the cranes. They waded slowly away to preen once again in deeper water. Our close encounter was over. We needed to leave to catch the 5pm ferry by 3.30pm. At the entrance among the many mallards at our feet, was a lone Mandarin Duck. In the late afternoon light it still displayed many beautiful colours. This is an Asian species and one wonders what it is doing here? Certainly it was at home with the mallards and coots. On the way to the ferry we saw several Great Blue Herons waiting and watching in ditches and fields, for their next meal. Several skeins of Trumpeter Swans flew low over the delta calling to one another. The sun was low on the horizon. It was magical to watch those huge white swans fly slowly across the fields. Their white bodies flushed with pink from the sun. To complete our adventure the sunset that occurred later as we boarded the ferry was spectacular. Orange, pinks, mauve's, and reds was the palette of colour for this autumn sundown. Even though we hadn't engaged in the Snow Geese encounter that we had hoped for, the big orange moon that rose up above the horizon during the ferry ride back to Victoria was an acceptable finale to a wonderful Autumn day out with a special friend.
Shelley 11/21/05 05:57 am Oh Marie, thank you so much for this! I have missed your wonderful narratives! I felt I was right there with you! When will you have pics to share?! This day sounds like it was perfect!
Anne 11/21/05 06:07 am Marie, I really enjoy your 'blogs' - I feel as though I am there with you. To see snow geese en masse must be a wonderful experience and I dident realise you got migrants from Siberia, although it stands to reason that they would come down the east side of the Pacific. We get occasional vagrants but I thought ours came from Canada.

I had the good fortune to come across a couple of cranes in Norfolk last May. They are almost mystical ar'nt they. But very wary and elusive. Do you remember the cranes in 'Winged Migration'? How they pass over a certain range of mountains in France in the same week every year. Oh and their dance - just beautiful.

Anyway what I wanted to ask was - would you mind if I published extracts of your piece in our Bird Club newsletter? I am sure a lot of people would be interested to hear about a day's birdwatching in Canada.
Celeste 11/21/05 06:23 am Oh Marie, such beautiful images you create for us to "see"....it was like watching a continuation of "The Winged Migration"......I love your blogs and I too felt like I was with you on your expedition!
Pam 11/21/05 08:26 am Just lovely Marie !!!
Nancy L 11/21/05 08:32 am How exciting to have a crane eat from your hand! We also have a place here on L.I. where the small birds, chicadees, titmouse, etc. will eat from your hand, but not a crane! A wonderful narrative.
Marie 11/21/05 09:19 am Hey thanks....sorry it was soooooooo long. Glad you enjoyed the trip with me.
I have now connected to an Orca Live webcam friend who lives in the Vancouver area WHO KNOWS where to go to get close to these lovely geese so I will be heading over once again in 8-10 days.
Yes Anne, you may use extracts from my BLOG.
The interesting thing is why don't these geese come to Victoria or even up Island here.There is plenty of farmland and wetland available, but I guess that the Fraser River Delta just has the right taste.... ;-)
Some of the areas that these geese frequent are right close to the AIRPORT. Boy I wouldn't want to be flying those jets when all these birds are flying in from the artic and milling around.
Madeline 11/21/05 04:33 pm Oh Marie, how beautifully you put all this down on paper or ( computer). It's like I was there with you. I'm so jealous of you, expecially having the chica dees feed out of your hand. I've tryed it in my backyard, but they would have none of it. And to have the crane approach you and feed out of yours and David/s hands. What a rush that must of been. Can't wait to see the pics. Hope you post them. Thanks so much for the enjoyable day.

BTW Nancy, I've heard of that place where the birds feed from your hand, could you please tell me the name, and town of it. I'd greatly apperciately it. Thanks
Nancy L 11/22/05 08:31 am It's the Elizabeth Morton Wildlife Preserve, located on Noyak Road, just west of Sag Harbor, L.I. It's on the north side of the South Fork, north of Southampton.
We just took a 2+ hour walk out there on Sat. to the tip of Jessups Neck. You are not allowed to walk there in the Spring & Summer because of protective bird colonies. However, you can walk in the Preserve proper, which has 2 trails of a mile or so, each. One is a woodland trail which passes a pond where I saw my first Woodduck family. The other goes straight to the beach, which is the Little Peconic Bay..
cathy 11/22/05 12:44 pm Marie - thank you for taking the time to recall and write it all again. (I know how frustrating it is to lose your words to a computer problem - it has happened to me) I am so grateful at the abundance of birds in the Pacific Northwest and thank you for taking me with you - especially the magic moments with the cranes - but all your words are so vivid and descriptive. Sandhill cranes are a common theme in Chinese paintings so they must have been or still are here in China. It is this type of bird and these words I am grateful for on Thanksgiving.
Madeline 11/22/05 02:16 pm thanks Nancy , I might take a ride out there this weeked, and give a try of my photography skills LOL

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Tom Throwe
Last modified: Sat Feb 18, 2006