Riding the Storm

Snow geese (Chen hyperborea)

On Monday afternoon this week we had a major storm blow into northwest Wyoming.  A strong north wind with falling snow made conditions pretty miserable. It was perfect conditions for large numbers of snow geese to finish their migration south to their winter range.  All evening long I could  hear and in some cases see flock after flock of snow geese flying over. The snow geese passing over western Wyoming are in the Central Flyway.  These snow geese breed in the Mackenzie River Delta, within a few miles of the Arctic Ocean, in Alaska and the Yukon Territory.  In early autumn they move south into Montana to stage, feeding on harvested crops for a few weeks to gain strength and weight for the final push south.  A strong storm with north winds is ideal conditions to save energy on the final leg of their migration.  Flying along the Absaroka Front the birds pass right over Cody, Wyoming on their way to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.  It was amazing to hear the nonstop parade of birds flying over that night.  Unfortunately I doubt if very many folks knew it was happening or would recognize what birds were making all the noise that night.  In the early 1900’s snow geese numbers were down to 2000-3000 due to unregulated market hunting. They were protected in 1916 and have made a remarkable recovery with 7-9 million birds filling the skies today.  They are now one of the most common waterfowl in the world.


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