“Whatcha doin this weekend?”
“Looking at geese,” was my answer last weekend, instead of the usual, “Nothing.”
Every year, the same time almost to the day, 20–30,000 snow geese stop at Gunnison Bend reservoir just outside Delta, Utah, for some R&R on their way back from Mexico. They started their journey at their breeding grounds at the very top of North America—the top of Alaska, northern Canada, where the continent starts to break up into little islands and runs into Greenland. And they travel 3,000 miles to Mexico.
In the spring, they do it again, in reverse, taking time to stop at Gunnison Bend Reservoir just west of Delta, Utah. Snow geese population overall numbers in the millions; thousands stop at the reservoir. You see them as a white haze on the water until you focus (bring your binoculars and a folding chair) and at first the sight is not that impressive.
Stick around a few minutes and watch. A Division of Wildlife Resources representative is there with a spotting scope and answers to your questions, and the closer you look, the more fascinating the whole scene becomes and the more geese you realize you’re looking at.
Plus you’ll see some other things.
Mixed in with the (technically) Lesser Snow Geese are Ross’s Geese, smaller but with similar markings, and every here and there is a dark morph of the snow goose.
Every few hours, like a wave at a football game, 10,000 geese or so decide to head for nearby fields to feed—the giant whirring sound of their wings almost drowns out their incessant honking and the goose-watchers let out a unanimous and involuntary “ooooooh” as if they were watching fireworks. Then they take up their V-formation making flying calligraphy in the sky.
I think they call that breathtaking.
Where is Sir David Attenborough? you wonder. He’d love this.
Be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s festival and see what small town Utah looks like—a quilt show, local honey and jam, hand-dyed scarves, face-painting for the kids.