Vs of snow geese, like bracelets strewn across the sky

“Birds are the life of the skies, and when they fly, they reveal the thoughts of the sky.”
— D. H. Lawrence, Birds, Beasts, and Flowers

The first snow geese are starting to return to the Skagit Valley, which is their winter feeding ground.  These vast animal migrations are a wonder and a mystery.  What strong, inner forces urge them to leave home for another so far away?  Do they understand their restlessness and the force that propels them?  It’s awe-some for me to be in the presence of such instinctual behavior.

Flock of snow geese feeding on Fir Island near Conway

Snow geese returning to Fir Island after their summer absence.

Skagit Valley snow geese

The Skagit Valley must seem like a green paradise.




Vagabond Swans

January 27, 2010

Trumpeter swan in flight

Pair of trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans overhead

“The very idea of a bird is a symbol and a suggestion to the poet. A bird seems to be at the top of the scale, so vehement and intense his life. . . . The beautiful vagabonds, endowed with every grace, masters of all climes, and knowing no bounds—how many human aspirations are realised in their free, holiday-lives—and how many suggestions to the poet in their flight and song!”
     — John Burroughs, Birds and Poets

Several thousand trumpeter swans winter in the Skagit Valley.  While we were up north, my husband and I drove to the Johnson/Debay Swan Reserve in Mount Vernon to look for the swans.  They weren’t nearly as numerous as the snow geese, but they were still an amazing sight.

Two swans coming in for a landing




Trumpeter swans at their winter feeding grounds in Mount Vernon

Trio of trumpeter swans in Mount Vernon

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