Snow at Emiquon

FINALLY! It has been like forever since I’ve posted. That is primarily due to a whole bunch of birding so far this month. So much that my queue has overflown. I still have to make my way through the Yellowstone pictures from like 3 years ago. Oh well, when the weather turns bad I’ll still have content to make my quota. The bad news is I probably will not remember a thing about the details surrounding the post event. Every once in awhile I get to jump ahead a tackle a topic more recent on the queue. Today is one of those time for I bring you this new entry on my North American Birding List!

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Pretty cool eh? This fine looking creature is a Snow Goose. I actually came upon this particular set of birds twice while birding at one of my favorite birding spots in Havana IL, Emiquon National Wildlife National Refuge. The first time came while I was alone trying to track down some shorebirds that fellow birders were reporting on a newsgroup. The bad news is it was a big fat blanking on the shorebirds, but spotting the Snow Goose ended up saving the trip.

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of these Snow Geese!

The second encounter was with my Brother who had come down to try his luck with the shorebirds. We took a lap around the main Emiquon Observatory when we first got there. That produced some Wood Ducks and Pied-Billed Grebes.. but no Sora’s or Snow Geese which were targets for the day. Ron wanted to improve his Sora pictures and didn’t have the Snows in the tin yet. This disappointment was quickly turned around thanks to hitting the lottery on shorebirds – foreshadowing, there will be plenty of posts heading your way from all those +1’s. Having exhausted the puddle birds we made a quick trek back through the Observatory. There we located both the Sora and these three Snow Goose putting a perfect bow on the day (and a number of new entries in Ron’s list as well as mine.

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

One interesting aspect of these specimens was how docile they were.  Both times they would slowly walk away from us.  Keeping one eye on the grass they were feeding on and another just keeping track of our whereabouts.  This is in stark contrast to every other bird at Emiquon that was basically freaking out at a distant sighting of our approach.  Didn’t really make any sounds or even show any visible fear with wing flaps or head bobs.  As you can tell there is some distinction in the three.  The two mostly white ones are fairly standard, but the darker body one might be a Blue Goose/Blue Morph variety.  Typically those are more solid brown, but there seems to be a wide variety on the web.

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Yikes, out of shots.  Better get to some interesting facts stat.  They sport a grinning patch on their bill.  This was a key feature that helped verify our ID.  If you look close at the side of the bill, you will see what looks like a black gap where the bill halves meet.  They apparently like to travel in large flocks contrary to what we witnessed since these were the only three in the area.  Looks like Emiquon is right on the edge of their Southern migration to their Wintering home.   Hunting was stopped in 1916 but reintroduced in 1975 with their population increasing.  They do carry the Least Concern Conservation Status – yeah!  Beyond that, not much to really mention from our friends at Cornell.

Time to call it a night.  Take care everyone and happy birding!

4 thoughts on “Snow at Emiquon”

  1. Yes, these were a very nice catch for me as well! I recall other birders saying one of these was a blue morph, which agrees with your suspicions. That one is the coolest! So thanks to you I have nice pics of these geese, and also an increment in my bird count (I don’t have to write a post to count a bird…hehee…although if I did I might be tempted to title it “That’s Snow Goose!”).

    Between Emiquon and Montrose Point we’ve done quite well on our bird counts lately! Soon we’ll be freezing to death stalking ducks on ice-covered lakes. Brrr.

    Ron

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  2. Ummm I think ONE of us might be freezing to death stalking ducks on ice-covered lakes! Give you a hint which one .. not the one that lives IN Chicago – pretty sure that one will be snuggled up next to a crackling fire and drinking a warm cup of apple cider. It will likely be the one that has gone out in search of the Snowy Owl in bitter cold weather. Oh, and yes, we have done quite well lately in our counts or more accurately fodder for our bird counts since I can’t count them until they show up here. Are you sure you don’t want to start a birding blog!?!

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  3. No, thanks, no desire to start up a birding blog. Just snap pics of birds and count ’em up. Easy peasy.

    I have great plans to go birding in brutal, arctic weather, making my way through stinging sleet and howling winds as I tromp through waist-high snow packs in hopes of finding a duck in a stretch of open water. I kind of did that last winter. Kinda.

    Ron

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  4. I will say you have stepped up your spring, summer and fall birding game quite considerably and putting up quite a big year (trouncing me on new adds by a loooong shot). We’ll see how the winter goes – I know you too well hehehe

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