Hunting Cries

January 28, 2010

Hunters in the Skagit Valley

Waterfowl hunting season in the Skagit Valley ends on January 31st.  When we were driving along searching for snow geese, we were fooled by some decoys, which from a distance, looked like a flock of birds.  I’m not sure whether they fooled the snow geese.

Hunter setting out decoys

I wasn’t expecting to witness the drama of the hunt on my weekend drive to the country, but it was there in living color.  We found a huge flock of snow geese along Fir Island Road in a field that was marked as a reserve.  However, just across the road was private land, and we heard the plop, plop, plop of guns as the hunters successfully brought down several birds.  Then it was a race between the dog and an eagle to see who would reach the fallen bird first.

Eagle surveys the hunting grounds

Hunting dog and eagle race to the kill

Dog retrieves fallen goose; eagle is foiled.


Hunter with his snow geese

The Blind
by Timothy Murphy

 Gunners a decade dead
wing through my father’s mind
as he limps out to the blind
bundled against the wind.

 By some ancestral code
fathers and sons don’t break,
we each carry a load
of which we cannot speak.

 Here we commit our dead
to the unyielding land
where broken windmills creak
and stricken ganders cry.

 Father, the dog, and I
are learning how to die
with our feet stuck in the muck
and our eyes trained on the sky.

Wintering Snow Geese

January 25, 2010

Tens of thousands of snow geese winter in the Skagit Valley, leaving in March and April for Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia where they nest and raise their young.  Then by mid- or late October, they return to the Skagit Valley for another winter.

On Saturday, my husband and I took a drive to Conway and Mount Vernon, about an hour north of Seattle, in search of these snow geese.  They are easy to spot, brilliant white against the muddy fields where they feed.  It is simply awesome, sublime, wonderous to see thousands of these birds in one place.  They honk and call, and the sound of thousands of wings flapping simultaneously is astounding.  I don’t understand why this natural spectacle is not as celebrated as the Skagit Valley’s more famous tulip fields.   I thought they were well worth the trip.

Snow geese in the Skagit Valley

V's of snow geese continually arrive

Snow geese continually landing and taking off

Snow goose

Thousands of snow geese off Fir Island Road

Snow geese uprising

Barn almost obliterated by flying geese

“Suddenly, as if detonated, the flock took wing.  Thirty thousand geese lifted off the ice in front of us, wingbeats drumming the air, goose yelps gathering to a pounding, metallic yammer — the sound of steel being hammered on anvils, in caverns.  The ice thrummed and sang with it.  The exploded flock filled our fields of vision, a blizzard of birds.”
     — William Fiennes, The Snow Geese