Snoozing cat

Snoozing cat

Crow

Crow

Snow goose

Snow goose

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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.

Earthly Eternity

January 26, 2010

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt march, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.”
     — Rachel Carson

Standing in the presence of thousands of wintering snow geese, I certainly felt like I was witnessing part of a great, eternal cycle of life.  One’s spirit soars on the wings of these magnificent birds.

Snow geese in flight

Snow geese on the wing

Snow goose passes overhead

Snow geese uprising

Flock of snow geese

“. . . the wing bedlam of flocks rising from marshland roosts.”
     — William Fiennes, The Snow Geese

Here, woodcut artist Charles Beck captures the beauty of wintering snow geese.  You can see more of his woodcuts at http://www3.crk.umn.edu/info/tours/buildings/BerglandLab/Art/index.html.

Charles Beck's woodcut print of Snow Geese

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