Wild Goose Chase

I found myself on a wild goose chase over the first few weeks of this new year (and decade)—combing the countryside and estuaries for wintering snow geese. The journey took me as far south as the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and along the way, I encountered a bear, a family of river otters, tundra swans, and majestic sandhill cranes.

Despite being alone, the muted tones of winter had a calming effect that accompanied me over those nine days in the field. The geese were elusive to begin, but their numbers became more plentiful the farther north I looked. And, because of this initial hiccup, it certainly felt like a real life wild goose chase. 

 

Along the way I encountered a few patches of snow geese, but not what I was searching for. It wasn't until three quarters of the way through my travels that I found large numbers of these boisterous Arctic migrants. 

Why Snow Geese

It all commenced on the eastern shores of New Jersey. It was a blistering, cold day in March of 2015, and I was on another wild goose chase, or more accurately a snowy owl chase.

I climbed across mounds of moving earth with fierce determination, fighting the wind and sand whipping my face. While the owl had been spotted numerous times that week, luck would not be on my side.

An hour earlier a fellow birder had the pleasure of encountering the regal creature. From our brief conversation, I learned about an amazing migration spectacle taking place a few hours west of where I was standing in Pennsylvania. I was battered from the elements, and ready to warm up.

Defeated, off I went.

I arrived in Lancaster County just before sunset. Hundreds of cars and people lined the road. And beyond them, speckled across the dormant, rolling earth was the most wild and magical sights I had ever seen.

The timing was perfect. Like a foamy wave retreating from the shore, thousands of snow geese took to the sky in unison—hence their nickname, wavies. Probably the noisiest of all waterfowl their bellows were energizing. I wondered what they were saying...

After a few rounds, the birds settled down for the dark hours ahead and off I went back east, mesmerized. That experience left quite an imprint on me, and it's nearly impossible not to return each year to say hello to the creatures that make me smile until my cheeks hurt.

 

Featured image: Liminal space (Abstract Collection)