By Larry Czajkoski
For me, and for bird watchers in general, it’s always an exciting event to spot a new bird and one that can then be added to my “life list.” Such is the case with this issue’s bird, the Snow Goose. Just a couple months back in September while boating on Lake Lure, I came upon a flock of Canada Geese lazily floating in a cove. ‘Not so unusual,’ I thought….But then I noticed that one of the birds stood out due to its smaller size and different color/markings….It was a bird I had never seen before; It was the Snow Goose! Jackpot, and yet another bird added to my life list!
There are actually a couple different types (or morphs) of the Snow Goose. More specifically, our subject this issue is the “blue morph” adult Snow Goose (once known as the Blue Goose.) This adult Snow Goose has a white head and white neck (with some brown staining), brown back, and variable amounts of white on underparts. Primaries and secondaries are black, and wing coverts bluish-gray.
In North Carolina, the Snow Goose is primarily found in the coastal regions during the winter season. The more popular winter spot for these birds is the deep south and along the gulf coast.
Because of the great distances between its breeding grounds and wintering locations, this bird spends much of its time in transit. To take advantage of the short Arctic summer, the Snow Goose begins heading north as early as February, arriving on the breeding grounds by mid-May. That long journey takes the Snow Goose to its breeding and nesting grounds in the northern most parts of North America on high Arctic tundra…a long way from Lake Lure.
By late August, fall migration begins and continues through December, when the last migrants reach the wintering grounds back here in the south.
I don’t know yet if this bird I photographed will be staying in Lake Lure for the winter or just passing through on its migration to points further south. But given the gregarious nature of this bird, and that where there is one, there is likely to be several dozen to several thousand birds… I would just as soon be very happy to have spotted him as a “visitor” to Lake Lure and then receive a ‘postcard’ when it (and its many friends) gets to its winter home destination further south. In the meantime, don’t just casually pass by those flocks of Canada Geese. Take a closer look and you just may spot something new and exciting.