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Nebraska Discoveries: Snow Geese

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Nebraska Discoveries: Snow Geese

For the past 2-3 weeks, it's been slowly warming here. I wish I had blogged a little more about the extreme bitter cold we experienced here, and the record-after-record-after-record snowfall we had here in the Omaha area since December. I'll be updating our "Vollmer Weather Curse" post soon with this past winter's craziness and I promise more details then.

With the ever-so-subtle signs of spring coming, we're noticing the skies ("skies?" there's only one sky!) absolutely full of snow geese. Thousands of them flying in their trademark "V" formation...as far as the eye could see across the sky. The first couple times the boys and I have seen them, they were clearly flying north.

I haven't taken any pictures of the geese migrating (I know, Maryann's going to murder me!), but I found this blog post that summarizes my first impressions of the geese in the sky, along with a picture of what I've been seeing. Note that the post was about the same time of year, just 3 years prior.


At first, I assumed that these were Canada geese. After all, they were loud and prolific, right? But driving down Platteview Rd., which is the way I usually drive from my house to our church and our local shopping center (Shadow Lake Town Center), I saw one of the formations put themselves down on a rural field. Again, since I don't take pictures while traveling 55 m.p.h. down the road, I'll just steal this picture here, which pretty accurately captures what I saw:


Wait a sec -- those aren't Canada geese! What are those?

So I went home and consulted my handy-dandy Peterson's Field Guide...

...and discovered that they're actually snow geese. Here's a close up picture (which I again stole from someone else...):

So I read a bit more about snow geese and that was all well and good. Yep, there are a lot of them. Yep, they migrate up the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys in the late winter/early spring towards their summer breeding grounds in extreme northern Canada. Yep, the state of Nebraska has a special extension to their hunting season from February 6 - April 18 of this year expressly to help with the populations of these geese as they continue to grow.

Last week I noticed something strange. I saw more and more "V" formations NOT flying north. I saw some moving west south of our neighborhood. I'm guessing that movement is related to their following the Platte River. We live about 1 1/2 miles north of the Platte River, just before it dumps into the Missouri. I was okay with that explanation.

But what about a couple of "V" formations flying in huge circles? Big circles...like 1/2 mile radius circles. I was driving Timmy to preschool when we saw that happening, so I mentioned it to Mrs. Brown, Timmy's preschool teacher. She said that snow goose flocks were very territorial and the circling flocks were probably looking for a place to put down near a water source, and were being chased off by other flocks already in place. At the time, the snow hadn't completely melted, so many food sources were still under snow pack, particularly in the corn and soybean fields.

I do wish I was more a Johnny-on-the-spot with getting pictures of video of these formations. I just got a new iPhone 3GS last week and it has a video capability, so maybe I'll get lucky that way.

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