Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Different Kind of California Snow: Geese Getting Ready to Fly at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge

A juvenile Snow Goose

Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) are a big part of winter here in California. They shelter in the string of national wildlife refuges up and down the valley, and in those refuges they can cover the ground like snow.
I was at the San Joaquin NWR a week earlier, and saw few Snow Geese (two, to be exact), so I could be forgiven for thinking they had already started north on their migration, but yesterday at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, I realized they are still here, by the thousands.
They won't be here much longer, of course. They've been storing up energy for the long flight ahead to their Arctic breeding grounds. It's going to be a lot quieter on the refuge.
The gray birds in the foreground are Sandhill Cranes
There is nothing quite like seeing thousands of Snow Geese taking to the air all at once. One can't always see what causes the mass flights, a marauding hawk, a coyote, or an idiot tourist, but if you are nearby, it sounds like a jet plane. Somehow they invade the sky without knocking each other down.

I didn't catch the moment of liftoff, but here is a short video of Snow Geese filling the skies at Merced yesterday.

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