Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Snow Goose Festival with Merrill Webb

Each February, thousands of Snow Geese flock to Utah on their long trek home – roughly 3,000 miles! At the beginning of the month they leave their winter home in Mexico and make their way north, making a pit stop in Delta, UT where they will spend a few weeks resting up before the remainder of the journey towards their summer home in Canada. To celebrate this amazing migration, at 7 am Saturday morning the Bean Museum stuffed two twelve passenger vans full of people and equipment and took off towards Delta, excited to catch a glimpse of these migrant birds.  Led by Merrill Web, our group of birders began adding bird sightings to their list right out of the gate! Walkie-talkies connected the two vans, which allowed Dr. Webb to call out the species of birds being seen from the road the entire drive down to Delta.
Upon our entrance to Delta, we were met with an amazing sight.  Flocks on flocks on flocks of geese crowding the skies above us!  Looking forward to finding the landing sites of these flocks, we strategized our search.  Our first stop was along the beach of the Gunnison Bend Reservoir. While most of the reservoir was frozen, there was a small flock of geese hanging out right in the middle of the reservoir.  Upon further inspection, this flock comprised of Canada Geese and one solitary Snow Goose! Anxious to find even more Snow Geese, we soon left the Gunnison Bend Reservoir in search of them and soon found them in the fields surrounding the reservoir. Dr. Webb taught the group how to tell the difference between a Snow Goose and a Ross’s Goose (its all in the bill) and with this newfound knowledge our group was able to start making sense of all the white feathers being seen in our scopes.
Once satisfied with the amount of geese seen, our caravan pressed on along a long stretch of road in hopes of seeing some hawks and eagles. With our eyes focused on the tops of telephone poles and in large trees, our hawk sightings were off the charts. While our hawk sightings were racking up, we had yet to find any eagles, and the time to head home was soon approaching. Although disappointed to be leaving Delta without seeing a single eagle, our caravan started to make the trek back to Provo.  As we started through the mountain pass that marked our exit out of Delta, there they were! Two Golden Eagles soaring high above us. A probable mated pair, we watched as the male showed off for the female by tucking in his wings and diving past her. We watched these two eagles dance through the air until they finally passed out of view, before finally heading back to Provo.
We were able to see thousands of birds on this trip, divided up into 23 species. The complete list of species seen is as follows:
Snow Goose
Ross’s Goose
Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Golden Eagle
American Kestrel
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Northern Flicker
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark

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