Pungo Reflections – Water

Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Due to a crazy schedule at home this month, my last refuge tour of this winter waterfowl season was the first weekend of February. I had a great group of three clients that all had experience with our national wildlife refuge system and were excited to spend a day at the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes NWR. We had a fabulous day of woods walking, blue skies, birds, and bears (which was one thing these folks really wanted to see). As usual, when leading a trip, I don’t take many photos. But, since it had been such a great trip, I stayed an extra day for some Pungo Time for myself…and I am glad I did! I had an entire day, with surprisingly few other people around, to enjoy the sights and sounds of my favorite refuge. As I looked back on the images, the day seemed divided between observations of three components of this incredible wildlife habitat – the water, the forest, and the sky. So, I decided to present them to you in that order – first, the waters of Pungo…

Sunrise from Duck Pen observation area

Sunrise over Pungo Lake from Duck Pen observation area (click photos to enlarge)

The centerpiece of this portion of Pocosin Lakes NWR is Pungo Lake.  it is approximately 2800 acres, making it much smaller than nearby Lake Phelps (~16,600 acres) and Lake Mattamuskeet (~40,000 acres). All are shallow with average depths of no more than 5 feet, but Pungo Lake is very different in one important aspect. Unlike the other two, which have sandy bottoms, Pungo Lake has a peat base. This makes these waters very dark due to both suspended particulate matter and the tannic acids associated with peat. Very little sunlight penetrates these waters which means little or no aquatic vegetation grows in the lake. This, coupled with the acidity of Pungo Lake, means that there are few fish to be found in its waters. All of this dictates that this lake is used primarily as a resting and roosting area by the winter waterfowl, whereas Lake Mattamuskeet and Lake Phelps are also used as feeding areas. This also explains why you rarely see diving ducks, like Canvasbacks or Bufleheads, or fish-eating species, like Common Loons, on Pungo Lake.

Swan splash down 1

Swan splash down on one of the managed impoundments at Pungo

In addition to the open waters of the lake, there are over 400 acres of so-called Moist Soil Units (MSU’s) and over 500 acres of forested wetlands in the Pungo Unit. The MSU’s usually harbor thousands of waterfowl each winter as they provide an ideal combination of available food (in the form of aquatic vegetation, fish, and aquatic invertebrates) and shallow water. This winter, one of the MSU’s that is alongside a refuge road has been a great place for observing and photographing Tundra Swans. I have shared many photos from this particular spot in previous posts but was looking for something different.

Sunrise from the observation platform on Pungo Lake

Sunrise from the observation platform on Pungo Lake

I usually start my days with clients at the observation platform on the south shore of the lake. It is a great place to watch the changing light and get some perspective of the lake and the surrounding landscape. As the sun starts to rise above the horizon there is often a parade of Red-winged Blackbirds flying out to the fields, along with the occasional Northern Harrier flying westward. This means I rarely see other areas of the refuge at that moment of the magic light of sunrise. But I started this day in a different spot, the impoundment known as Marsh A, a location I hoped would provide some striking silhouettes of Tundra Swans.Swans in predawn light The key is to get to your site well before the sun comes up. So, I positioned my car where the sun would come up behind a large flock of swans on the impoundment. Some of the swans were slowly swimming about, perhaps claiming their favorite spots. The changes in light start out slowly at first with the scene initially dominated by a blue-gray palette having only a hint of gold.

American Coot at sunrise

American Coot at sunrise

As an American Coot swims by in front of the swans, the golden hues start to cover more of the water surface.

Swan challenging another nearby group at sunrise

Tundra Swan claiming some territory

The glow soon begins to flood the sky and the water below, giving the swans a more perfect shadow of themselves. They seem to respond with an increase in activity and interaction.

Swan at sunrise in Marsh A preening 1

Swan preening just before sunrise

As I scan the flock, a few are preening, readying their feathers for the start of a new day.

Swan at sunrise in Marsh A

Swan dipping its beak into the water with the sun just below the horizon

As increasing tones of orange signal the approach of the sun, I swing the camera back and forth looking for a subject before the bright beam of morning light breaks above the thin dark line of marsh bordering the far edge of the marsh.

Swans as sun rises above the horizon

A pair of Tundra Swans swim together as the sun rises

Before I can fully capture the fleeting radiance of the rapidly adjusting scene, the first rays of sunlight pierce through the trees lining the edge of the lake.

Swans at sunrise in Marsh A vertical

Swan silhouettes highlighted by the glow of the rising sun

Suddenly, there is a dazzling golden-orange stripe on the water. Swans swimming near the reflected beam now appear extra black. Their curved necks seem even more elegant in this light and their movements even more graceful.

Swans an hour after sunrise

Tundra Swans at the same location about an hour after sunrise

In less than fifteen minutes after the first orange beams struck the surface, the golden glow of a spectacular sunrise had faded. I decided to move on, looking elsewhere for some of the many species that tend to move about at this time of day. When I drove back by the impoundment about an hour later, the swans had settled into their morning routine of napping, preening, and discussing their plans for the day. And now the light was totally different.

Tundra Swan silhouette at sunrise

A classic winter sunrise scene at Pungo

Their fleeting nature is one of the things that make sunrises so special. Each one different, each scene memorable, but brief. And on this morning, as is often the case, I had it to myself. While I love sharing these moments with others, there is also something special about being the lone witness to the start of another day in a wild place like Pungo.

Ice Capades

Ice is an interesting subject for contemplation.

~Henry David Thoreau

Weather changes quickly this time of year. When venturing out, we need to be prepared. Imagine if you live out in it all winter. While snow is relatively rare in our eastern wildlife refuges, ice is common. A sudden drop in temperature on a still January night can lead to quick freezes in all the puddles, ditches and other waterways.

Ice formed overnight in puddles and the edges of open water

Ice formed overnight in puddles and the edges of open water (click photos to enlarge)

Such was the case last week at the Pungo Unit when an overnight cold snap turned what had been a wet field full of hungry Wilson’s Snipe and Killdeer the previous afternoon, into a skating rink the next morning.

Snipe camouflage

Wilson’s Snipe are difficult to see in grassy areas

The day before I had counted 18 Wilson’s Snipe in this flooded portion of an old soybean field. The next morning, the pool was frozen and, at first, I didn’t see a singe bird. Then, as I opened the car door, a snipe stood up and ran. So, I got back in the car and waited.

Snipe hidden in grass

Wilson’s Snipe hidden in grass

Soon, I started seeing lots of lumps in the grass – snipe lumps. The key was to look for dark clumps of “grass” and then check them out with binoculars. Most turned out to be Wilson’s Snipe, apparently waiting for a little warmth before venturing out to feed.

Snipe walking on ice 1

A cautious Wilson’s Snipe ventures out onto the frozen puddle

I watched the first snipe approach the ice rink. It moved out across the frozen surface slowly, much more slowly than their usual walking pace.

Snipe slipping on ice 1

Wilson’s Snipe slipping on ice

The first few steps were almost graceful. But that quickly turned comical as almost every snipe that attempted to cross the ice found itself slip-sliding away. There was usually a quick wing assist to try to stay upright. A few even abandoned the attempt altogether and flew over the ice to the grassy area on the other side.

Snipe slipping on ice

The snipe slip and squat pose

One bird did a butt flop on the ice with both legs shooting out in opposite directions.

Snipe portrait

Better to sit in the grass than try to skate on a frozen puddle

When that bird finally made it across, it seemed to express the embarrassment for itself and the rest of its clan with a slight look of disgust, or maybe it was contemplating another use for that long bill besides just probing the mud for worms.

Swan on ice

A Tundra Swan stands on the frozen edge of the impoundment

After several good laughs, I drove over to the impoundment that has been so productive this season for swan watching. Most of the water was open out in the middle of the impoundment, but I noticed some swans along the edge that seemed to be standing.

Swan on ice 1

No problems walking on ice

I moved to an open spot with a good view and could see several Tundra Swans were gingerly walking on the skim of ice along the marsh edge. Their broad webbed feet have distinctive claws at the the tips of each toe. Perhaps this combination provides greater surface area contact with the slippery substrate and allows the seemingly always elegant Tundra Swan to walk gracefully atop the ice.

Swan flapping on ice

Check this out, Mr. Snipe

As if to reinforce their one-upmanship of the snipe in their ice skating abilities, one swan performed a regal wing flap at the conclusion of a short session of preening, leaving no doubt which species would receive the higher score in the marsh bird ice capades.

Swan against moon

Tundra Swan elegance

And, if there was any doubt of who is the most graceful and artistic of the birds of Pungo, a lone swan flew by the rising moon that afternoon, reminding me one more time of why these beautiful animals are my favorite bird of winter.



Season of the Swan

…this harsh sound softened and modulated by distance, and issuing from the immense void above, assumes a supernatural character of tone and impression, that excites, the first time heard, a strangely peculiar feeling.

~Dr. Sharpless, 1844, on the sound made by Tundra Swans during flight

Tundra Swan flying 1

Tundra Swan calling as it flies out of Pungo Lake (click photos to enlarge)

It is a magical sound, that first haunting note of a Tundra Swan each season. This year, I heard my first call on a November trip down to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. In subsequent trips, I have listened to it countless times, always a mesmerizing call – often a soft honking sound, reminiscent of the baying of hounds in the distance.

Other sounds include a mellow hoot, with an occasional squeak or a whistle thrown in for good measure.

Swans flying in tight formation

Swans flying in tight formation against a gray sky

And then there is the sound of the wings overhead, one of my favorite swan sounds.

Swan taking off

Swans must run across the water to take off

If you are reasonably close, you can also hear the slapping sound made by their huge webbed feet as they they run across the water to take off.

Swan landing

Swan coming in with landing gear down

Swan landing 2

Swans ready for touch down

Swan splashing down as it lands

The gentle splash as a Tundra Swan lands

You have to be much closer to hear the gentle, prolonged splash as these graceful birds come in for a landing.

Swans scattered in corn field

Tundra Swans feeding in a corn field on the refuge

The season of the swan is a magical time in Eastern North Carolina. Tundra Swans occur in two population groups, a western population (WP) and an eastern one (EP). The EP is estimated to be about 107,000 birds as of mid-winter, 2013 (the WP is lower at about 75,000 birds). An estimated 70-80% of the EP overwinter in North Carolina, making the refuges and fields of eastern North Carolina a critical habitat for a large portion of the Tundra Swans in the world.

Swans bunched together in corn field

Swans bunched together in corn field

When I am leading groups to view swans, we often see other groups that are hunting swans. North Carolina is one of eight states that allow swan hunting. Swan meat is supposedly good to eat, and Dr. Sharpless commented that if less than six years old swans are very tender and delicious eating. Federal rules dictate that states limit the number of permits issued and generally limit the annual harvest to one bird per permittee. In our state, 5000 permits are issued each winter, by far the most of any other state. In a typical winter, about half result in a kill.  A quick check online revealed prices of about $400 to $450 per hunter per day for a swan hunt in eastern NC, which obviously brings income into this area. And, of course, there is the income brought in by ecotourism – bird watchers, wildlife watchers, and others that just want to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the winter wildlife.

Swans in a dust cloud at sunset

A sunset cloud of dust created by wind and the presence of thousands of feeding Tundra Swans and Snow Geese

Our group was interviewed this past weekend by a graduate student looking at possible economic impacts to the region due to the presence of large numbers of swans each winter. I know that the hotel we stay at in Plymouth is often crowded on weekends with a combination of swan hunters and swan watchers, so there must be a considerable impact on local economies to the presence of so many wintering birds in this region.

Tundra Swan adults and young

Tundra Swan adults and young

Tundra Swans are often seen in family groups on the wintering grounds. Adults are all white (although they sometimes have rust-colored stains on their head and upper necks from the ferrous minerals in the soils where they feed). Immature birds are dirty white or grayish, especially on the head and neck, and often have a pinkish bill. These juveniles will be all white by the time they come back next winter.


On an earlier trip this year we observed a swan sporting a different color – a neck collar similar to the ones I had assisted the refuge in putting on birds they banded several years ago. This one also had what appeared to be a microwave transmitter on the collar which would have provided even more information on the movements of this particular bird, T311. The advantage of neck collars is that observers can report the whereabouts of a collared bird using just binoculars or a spotting scope, whereas to get data from the traditional leg bands requires that the bird be in hand, usually as the result of being shot in a hunt. After turning in the observation of T311 to a USFWS biologist in the region, the preliminary information indicates that this number series corresponds to birds that were collared on their nesting grounds on the North Slope of Alaska in 2006. I hope to get more definitive information on this bird soon.

Swan drinking

Tundra Swan getting a drink of water

In between groups on a recent trip, I spent some quality time observing swans in one of the impoundments at the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. This area has contained many swans this winter and they seem to tolerate cars stopping to observe and photograph them.

Swan shadows

With more than 25,000 feathers on a swan’s body, it makes sense that these birds spend a lot of time each day preening. One of my favorite scenes is when the shadow of one bird is cast upon the body of another bird.

Swan flap

Swan flapping after preening

After a good bout of preening, a swan will often raise up and flap its wings a couple of times as if to get all those feathers in working order again. Late afternoon is a great time to watch and photograph swans as they are relaxed and the low angle light starts getting that golden hue that makes these majestic birds even more beautiful.

Swan in flight

Swan in flight

Swan flying low

Swan gaining altitude after take-off

The flight of Tundra Swans is a magical thing to witness. Their long necks and strong wing beats on a wing span of almost 6 feet gives them an appearance of grace and power. Average flight speeds are in the neighborhood of 30 mph. This serves them well on their incredibly long migrations between their breeding grounds on the tundra of western Canada and Alaska to their wintering grounds here in North Carolina, a distance of over 3500 miles. Satellite tracking has shown that although they could fly that distance in a little over 100 hours straight, it actually takes much longer since they use so-called staging areas along the route as they migrate to feed and rest. The spring migration is usually longer than the fall one, lasting about 100 days. In a typical year, Tundra Swans spend about 20% of the year on the wintering grounds, 29% on the breeding grounds, and the rest in migration on the staging areas (with spring migration lasting longer than fall). This shows how important it is to identify and protect all components of a migratory bird’s habitats throughout its annual cycle.

Swan flying at sunset

In a little over a month, the Tundra Swans and most of the other waterfowl will be headed north to their breeding grounds. The refuges in eastern North Carolina will seem silent and empty, although they are really anything but, since a new set of migrants will arrive to breed and raise their young along with all of our resident wildlife. But I will still look forward to next year, when there is a chill in the air and a sound I love that will signal the beginning of a new season of the swan.


Trip Report – a Frozen Mattamuskeet and Pungo

To me, the beautiful and ever-changing patterns formed in lake ice – and in snowflakes, the ice of the sky – are winter’s “bloom,” corresponding to the flowering plants of summer.

~Stephen Hatch

I had another trip to North Carolina’s winter wonderland this past weekend. And a wonderland it was…Lake Mattamuskeet was largely frozen, a most unusual sight. The last time this happened was 1986, and, ironically, I was there that winter as well. I met my group on the causeway at sunrise and we marveled at the expanse of grayness before us. A few cold Canada Geese walked on the ice, probably wondering what had happened to their once watery haven.

Lake Msattamuskeet frozen at sunrise

A frozen Lake Mattamuskeet at sunrise (click photos to enlarge)

The marsh impoundments along Wildlife Drive were also frozen, but we soon spotted a Bald Eagle standing on the ice, surveying the scene for a weakened duck or goose that might make an easy kill. A few other eagles patrolled the area, sending hundred of ducks skyward with every pass. Small birds such as kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers were busy in the shrub thickets, and American Coot grazed on the vegetation along the banks of the road. But it was a much more quiet drive than normal, save for the loud crunching of my tires on the ice-covered road. Our wildlife highlight for the morning was an otter trying to move across some thin ice, but forced to do a combination of loping and swimming as it frequently broke through the ice on its way to the marsh.

Bald Eagle on ice 1

Bald Eagle on ice

After lunch, we ventured out on the swamp boardwalk across the canal from the lodge. I always take folks on this walk as it is beautiful, quiet, and gives you a view of a habitat that is hidden from most people.

Swamp boardwalk

Swamp boardwalk

I have photographed this area many times and love the reflections you get in the dark waters beneath the cypress trees, but I have never seen it like this.

swamp pano

Panorama of frozen swamp

Frozen swamp 1

Ice and reflections in cypress swamp

Frozen swamp with cypress knees

Bald Cypress knees in the deep freeze along the boardwalk

Frozen swamp with ice circle

Patterns in ice create circles around each tree trunk

Frozen swamp

Blue-gray cast to ice in swamp

As we walked into the swamp, one of the participants excitedly asked about a bird she spotted. I looked out on the ice and was surprised when I saw movement just beneath my feet under the boardwalk. It was a Sora Rail, and only a few feet from us!

Sora Rail on ice 1

Sora Rail emerged from under the boardwalk and walked out onto the ice

The Sora is a quail-sized rail that is more often heard than seen due to its secretive habits. As the small bird strutted out on the ice, I was amazed at its huge feet. We watched it for a few minutes as it foraged amongst the debris surrounding tree trunks and cypress knees protruding from the ice.

Sora Rail on ice 2

Sora Rail on ice

The weather started to take a downward turn with heavy clouds and periodic drizzle. Driving along Wildlife Drive, we came across a large flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding on the berries of the invasive Privet shrubs that unfortunately cover the roadsides and thickets on the refuge.

Cedar Waxwing eating privet berry vertical 1

Cedar Waxwing eating Privet fruit

Waxwings are one of our most beautiful birds. They have an air-brushed, silky-smooth appearance, with a bold black mask and yellow (sometimes orange) tail tip. Adults have red, waxy-looking tips to the feathers on their wings.

Cedar Waxwing eating privet berry

Cedar Waxwings have a silky appearance

Weather conditions worsened and the drive back to the hotel was in dense fog. We were on the observation platform at Pungo Lake at “sunrise” the next morning, but it might as well have been a deck in the clouds. It was magical to hear the sounds of thousands of swans and Snow Geese on the lake while not being able to see a single one.

Fog at Pungo Lake

Dense fog at Pungo Lake

I was worried about road conditions at the Pungo Unit after the unusual heavy snow and it was a worry with merit. Thankfully, refuge staff had repaired two of the large holes in the road I had encountered on my last trip a couple of weeks ago, but the snow melt had worsened other portions of the roads, giving us a few anxious moments as we plowed through the mud and occasional deep ruts. As the fog started to lift, we could see swans flying out to the surrounding fields to feed. Anywhere the birds congregated, they did so under the watchful eyes of predators such as this immature Bald Eagle. We saw over 20 eagles, along with an assortment of other avian predators such as Northern Harriers, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, and a Merlin that nabbed one of the thousands of Red-winged Blackbirds feeding in the cornfields.

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle watching swans feed in the field below

At one point, we were watching a flock of swans feeding while more swans continually landed to join the flock. We all heard a strange call, which reminded me of a specialty car horn on a clown car in a parade. I had never heard anything quite like it, but it seemed to come from a swan that was landing in the midst of the hundreds of others feeding on the corn. The only thing I could think of was it might have been the call of a Trumpeter Swan. After playing the calls on our phone birding apps that, indeed, was what it sounded like. Even though we desperately searched the flock, looking for the subtle differences in bill shape that distinguish the western species of swan from our Tundra Swan, I could not find it amongst the hundreds of feeding birds. I have written a few experts to see what they think, but it certainly seems we heard a North Carolina rarity. Listen to the call on the web site of The Trumpeter Swan Society here – http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org/swan-voice.html.

Mid-afternoon, we walked through the woods along my favorite spot for locating bears (“Bear Road”). While we saw plenty of bear sign, we did not see any bears, and, to my surprise, no fresh bear tracks in the muddy road. So, I altered my normal routine of ending the day in this usually productive section of the refuge, in favor of heading toward some recently cut over corn fields near the refuge maintenance area. When we arrived at the paved road, we could see thousands of Tundra Swans feeding in the fields. Suddenly, they started filling the skies, much like a slow-motion blast off of a dense flock of Snow Geese. I have never seen this many swans take off at once.

Tundra Swans taking off from field 1

Tundra Swans taking off from field

The sun popped out, flooding the field with light, and the source of the swan’s concern soon appeared…a large Black Bear coming into the field from the adjoining woods.

Bear and swans

Black Bear moving into field and flushing thousands of swans

The bear moved quickly into the field, picked up what I thought was an ear of corn, and retreated back to the woods. A closer look at my images (the bear was over a hundred yards from us) showed that it had picked up either a leg bone or wing bone, probably from one of several swan carcasses in the fields.

Bear with food and swans

Bear picks up a bone in the field and heads back to the woods

We saw seven other bears move into the edges of the field over the next thirty minutes as we watched this unbelievable scene of wildlife abundance unfold in the beautiful light of a gorgeous winter sky. Shortly after the large bear disappeared, I looked up and saw what must have been the entire Snow Goose population on the refuge headed our way.

Snow Geese arriving

Waves of Snow Geese arrive to join the Tundra Swans feeding in the cornfield

The light continued to get better, turning the geese into golden-winged fliers at times, then bright white ones as they banked. The sky in front of us was soon swirling with thousands of geese noisily making their approach.

Snow Goose swirl

A swirl of descending Snow Geese

We watched as wave after wave started to land. How they manage to pick a spot amongst the hundreds of feeding and squawking geese on the ground is beyond me.

Snow Gees landing 1

Snow Geese landing – note the blue color morphs that appear as darker geese

I always try to spot a few Ross’ Geese whenever there are this many Snow Geese close by. We had seen a couple at the edge of feeding flocks, but I enjoy the challenge of identifying them in the sky amongst thousands of their larger cousins.

Ross' Goose landing

Ross’ Goose landing – it is the smaller goose in the lower left – you can see the smaller size, more rounded head, and the lack of a black “lip line” on the bill (when zoomed in)

The grand finale of this unbelievable wildlife spectacle was when, on some unknown cue, the entire flock of 30,000+ Snow Geese lifted off in the classic blast off. The whoosh of their wings as their collectively rise from the fields or lake can be heard for over a mile.

Snow Geese blast off

Snow Geese blast off

The geese all headed back to the lake for the night, leaving the swans alone to feed (I always imagine they let out a swan sigh when their noisy neighbors depart). It had been an incredible finish to a great weekend, in spite of the challenging weather and roads. I was glad to have shared it with such great folks and happy to introduce the magic of Pungo to another group.

The Black and White of Pungo

To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul. ~Andri Cauldwell

Last Wednesday, I headed to the Pungo Unit of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to scout the area for an outing later that week. I’ll report on the outing in the next post, but wanted to share a few highlights of the scouting trip. If only the critters would realize they need to show up when I schedule them so I don’t have to tell people…”well, yesterday…”

There seemed to be a somewhat monochromatic theme to the critters last week, so here are a few of my favorite shots:

Blackbirds in trees

Red-winged Blackbirds in trees at Pungo – note male Northern Harrier streaking by the treetop (click photos to enlarge)

Tundra Swan flyover

Tundra Swan flyover

American Coot

American Coot feeding on submerged aquatic vegetation

Black Bear sow 1

Black Bear sow

When my participants arrived, we again saw all of this wildlife, and more. Unfortunately, I was treated to one spectacle that afternoon that eluded my group during their stay…but such are the vagaries of wildlife watching. They never behave on cue.

Blackbird flock in front of snow goose flock

Blackbird flock in front of Snow Goose flock

I was waiting at a favorite location for bears when thousands of Snow Geese came out of the lake and started circling the field as if wanting to land. In the foreground, hundreds of Red-winged Blackbirds drifted across the corn stubble in dark clouds. The geese landed about a mile away and I started walking in their direction.

Bear with snow geese

Snow Geese circling field where bear was feeding

A young Black Bear had been out in the field when the flock started to circle, and many of the loud birds started landing near the bear. The young bear retreated into cover and the then reappeared a short while later. It fed for a few minutes and then retreated once more, while the flock on the ground grew larger and was moving toward both me and the bear.

Bear with snow geese 1

Young bear approaching flock of Snow Geese

On its next appearance in the field with the geese, the bear must have decided to try to reclaim the corn supply. The next few images show the bear running toward the flock.

Bear with snow geese 3

Young bear running at flock

Bear with snow geese 4

They just won’t leave…

Bear standing looking st snow geese

Bear standing, looking at Snow Geese as they circle and land nearby

A few birds spooked and flew, but more were landing all the time. The bear stood up as more Snow Geese began to circle and land nearby. If only I could read a bear’s mind…The bear then walked off the field, leaving the corn to the growing, noisy flock.

White cloud at sunset

As the sun neared the horizon, the Snow Geese all decided it was time to return to the safety of the lake for the evening. The flock was white against the dark tree line and then appeared black as it crossed the open sky.

Snow Geese at sunset

Snow Geese at sunset

Snow Geese flying over field at sunset

Snow Geese flying over field at sunset

I wish they had waited for my group, but knowing that there is always a chance to witness such a spectacle is what keeps me going back. If interested in scheduling a guided trip to this amazing area, please contact me at roadsendnaturalist@gmail.com.