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Snow Geese on the Move

I have been waiting for a nice sunny day to take some pictures and then one morning a few days ago, I spotted a very large group of snow geese on Canandaigua Lake. Their mostly white bodies were in stark contrast to the vivid blue color of the Lake in the morning sun.

It appears to me that they have showed up early this year and I want to believe that we are going to have an early spring this year. One can mistake such a large mass of white on the lake for a large floating chunk of ice but not this year as there hasn’t been enough cold weather for much ice to form on the Lake. I sent a picture of the geese to my son in Rochester and he questioned how I knew that they were going north as we haven’t had any winter this year. He said “maybe they are headed south before the real winter comes to this area?” I shiver when I think about that. Indeed, our winter here in Canandaigua, NY have been mild. The nearby Rochester Airport has reported only approximately 12 inches of snow this season while to the west, the Buffalo International Airport has reported a whopping 115 inches of snow.

Non-migratory Canadian Geese


Because of the mild winter, the snow geese have started their seasonal migration to their breeding grounds which lie in the northern part of Canada all the way to the Canadian Artic Circle. They start their migration in small groups or families of perhaps several dozen birds. As these families of birds start to work their way north, they are joined by other family groups which eventually result in the large group of many thousands of snow geese that we saw on the lake. They stop at lakes and rivers which are not frozen over so they can safely rest on the open water and search for food in the nearby fields.

Mallard Ducks Feeding Along the Edge of the Lake


We watched this huge flock of geese and wondered how they communicate with each other. Do they sent out scouts to find open fields which might have some unharvested corn or spilled soy-beans on the ground and then report back to the larger flock? Later in the morning, they became restless and then suddenly, hundreds of them took to the air, flying in a circle around the whole group as a signal that it was time for the group to move on to the fields and search for food.

Snow Geese Preparing to Take Flight


Snow geese are smaller than the usual grey and black Canadian Geese that are non-migratory and hang around the Finger Lakes all Winter. They are voracious eaters and require a lot of food to keep them healthy and in flying condition. And because of their numbers, they can cause a lot of damage to the fields. After many hundreds or perhaps thousands of years of migration, the snow geese seem to have worked out a traveling system so they can socialize and thrive in large numbers while they slowly move north to their breeding grounds.