Snow Goose Frenzy

Thousands of Snow Geese make the mutual decison to leave.
Inside the chaos of a Snow Goose flock.

You likely will hear them before you see them. When thousands of Snow Geese make the mutual decision to move, even if it’s only a few hundred yards, the resulting cacophonous frenzy is like no other, at least in nature. About 75 miles south of where you see Snow Geese in the Puget Sound region is CenturyLink Field, after all, home of the loud-decibeled 12th Man.

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A family of Snow Geese glide in for a landing.
A family of Snow Geese glide in for a landing.
From late October to about late February, the Skagit Valley, with its flat farmland and neighboring estuaries, hosts tens of thousands of overwintering Snow Geese, who spend the whole time fattening themselves up for a return to their Arctic nesting grounds.

For about a year, I’ve been going up the Skagit and Samish flats to photograph raptors. The still of any day up there is occasionally snapped by a distant roar, like a stadium after an impressive athletic demonstration. And you’re likely to see an undulating mass of white over some agricultural field.

A couple Snow Geese are in synch on approach.
A couple Snow Geese are in synch on approach.
Recently, I went to a spot where I could watch the Snow Geese making their morning journey in from Padilla Bay, where they usually overnight. Oddly, there were few to be found, so I headed over to Rawlins Road, to check for raptors near Fir Island. And there they were. And were. And were. The noisy birds seem to stream in, by the hundreds and sometimes thousands, for periods that sometimes seem never ending.

I tried driving up the road, to resume my search for raptors. But it was like being in a quiet club, hearing the periodic eruption from a neighboring joint. You keep thinking you’re missing out on something. The explosion of noise, and mass movement, drew me back to the Snow Geese. The frenzy proved too irresistible.

Before and after the frenzy.

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