This is the time of the year when snow geese migrate, by the tens of thousands, through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge area near Cayuga Lake, often roosting on the lake in huge rafts. When they head to the fields to feed they get up in mass and it has to be an amazing thing to see and hear.
I had never experienced this event over there and we don't get those masses of snow geese here, so a friend and I headed that way one recent Sunday morning. Since it's a two-hour drive, we took off about 5:30 a.m. to be there shortly after sunrise to see those masses of snows leave the lake.
Well, we got skunked! The snow geese apparently left for the northern tundra country earlier than normal. We saw a lot of pintail ducks, a few eagles, a threesome of sandhill cranes and lots of osprey nests. I took less than a dozen photos while we were there, which is a new low for me when I'm out photographing nature. One sandhill crane gave me several great flight shots (every once in awhile I get lucky) and I got a number of shots of the huge silver metal egret sculptures at Montezuma Visitors Center.
So after a visit with a old friend in Waterloo and a very long day, we headed back home. Next year I will have a couple of “spotters” who will hopefully clue me in when the snows come through.
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The next day I was up early checking out my “stomping” grounds in the Alabama Swamps. We had a good number of tundra swans in the swamp the week before, and a lot of geese, but they had moved on before I could get set up for the flight shots that I desired. To my good fortune, more had moved in, a lot more.
Still looking for swan flight shots, I headed over to a corn field where they had been feeding and parked my butt as close as I could get without spooking them, hoping to catch some birds flying in or flying out. While waiting I decided to see exactly how many birds were in that corn field. Out came the spotting scope and the count began. It ended up being almost 400 swans along with a ton of Canada geese.
Then it happened, the distant “whooping” sound of more tundra swans coming from the southeast. My excitement rose as I spotted them heading right towards the birds in the corn field. The camera was checked for correct settings and I focused on them as they came swooping in. This was great, just what the doctor ordered! Then a short time later another flock approached, this time an even larger flock. A number of flocks arrived until I counted approximately 600 to 700 swans in the field. Then a small flock of snow geese came from the same general direction.
The distance was great but the lighting was perfect. In the group was a “blue goose” (a dark colored phase of the snow goose that isn't often seen). This group kept swinging and coming back, giving me several good opportunities to “shoot” that blue goose. Beside the swans and snow geese, there were a huge number of Canada geese mixed in.
As I sat there catching my breath from all the action and my good fortune, the birds went on alert and their “talking” told me something had them worked up. I suspected another vehicle had pulled up and someone had jumped out to take a picture but there was no vehicle. Then, suddenly, a couple walked by my vehicle. Nothing upsets birds more than folks getting out of their vehicles except people walking towards them. Suddenly the whole field of birds lifted and ... what a sight and sound they created! The couple just kept walking and didn't seem to notice or care what had happened. Me, I was breathless.
So I got skunked at Montezuma but more than made up for it when I got back to the swamp that I know and love. We surely do have a great wildlife area right here close to home.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .