One of the greatest things about living anywhere in North Dakota is you can pile the kids in the car and within 30 minutes or less, you are outside city limits and, under the right conditions, wildlife abounds.
We put that theory to the test this past week and the results were fun: after school on Monday, the kids and I headed to the Missouri river bottom where we saw hundreds of Canada geese, a small flock of wild turkeys, and a herd of deer stampede for cover into the trees at the sound of children’s laughter.
I’d spent some time in this location a couple days prior, when there were thousands of geese resting and feeding in nearby stubble fields. The geese were as locusts in the skies; one flock would come in for landing, another soon would grow restless. Their honking would crescendo, and predictably, the departing flock would take flight. It was an awesome sight. One frantic goose flew just over my head, he/she was honking loudly, seemingly looking for its missing partner. And I made a mental note to be sure to bring the kids to that place to see the spring migration of the Canada Geese soon, before all this fun frenzy fades away.
As I looked out at the sea of geese in the stubble field pictured below, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me – was that really a lone snow goose in a flock of Canada geese? After sharing the photos below with Craig Bihrle of North Dakota Game & Fish, I can tell you with certainty: yes, that is a snow goose! Apparently, it is not uncommon for snow geese to migrate with Canada geese.
As an international adoptive mama, I *loved* this sighting – because in my world, people don’t have to look alike to be a family. :)
Soon after the kids and I started walking along a fence line, we could see a scurry of activity just beyond the tree row to our left. We were about 1/4 mile away from what I first thought were dogs. No – it was a herd of 20-30 whitetail deer, evidently startled by my loudly laughing littles (one in particular, ha!) and the herd was running towards a grove of trees.
My mid-range telephoto lens was maxed out trying to capture the herd, we were too far away to shoot them any better than this. A while later, I scoped out the grove of trees where they took cover. Notice below: One deer is standing watch and two are visible, lying down. I also see a green tree stand; pretty clever placement by the hunter.
As we were headed home, a flock of wild turkeys crossed the road in front of us. This was our 5-year-old’s first sighting of a wild turkey up close. He called them alien birds. On Thanksgiving Day, we call them dinner.
We stopped by one more spot where there were a few dozen small birds darting to and fro. They moved so fast and erratically, it was impossible as a novice to identify them. They aren’t the kind of birds that make bird-watching easy, or much fun, for that matter! I should’ve bumped up my shutter speed a bit more. Even after studying this fuzzy photo, I don’t know what they are; certainly not remarkable. I only include them here because I think this must be the bird that characterizes “Angry Birds.” They do look mad, don’t you think?
The image below was taken one month ago; it was a pleasant surprise to see the early return of the geese to a nearby golf course. Since the end of February, we’ve been – literally – on a wild goose chase, getting out of the house to find them and watch them. The skies are never empty of these birds in this season. Before the sun rises and after it sets, we can hear them overhead. The sight of their V-shaped flight pattern and the sound of loud honking will be missed when its over. But by then, spring will usher in summer with all its wonder; and the flight of the Canada geese won’t be much of a thought until fall, when we bid them a bittersweet farewell for the winter.
Okay, so that was one of our after school adventures in our big backyard of North Dakota – 10 minutes from town, 90 minutes of exploring, and memories for a lifetime. It’s been a long winter; hope you and yours can get outside and make some memories, too! :)
Canada Goose: Fun Facts
- Canada Geese can live 10- 20 or more years in the wild
- They are monogamous for life
- It is said that geese can travel up to 1,500 miles in a 24 hour period with favorable wind conditions
- The V-flying pattern is thought to be helpful to break the headwind. The geese change out this position, as it is fatiguing to hold for long. The head flying position is not held by one particular goose.
- Migration distances can be as long as 2,000 – 3,000 miles
- Geese migrate to return to their birthplace, to nest and hatch out their young