BIRD WATCH: ‘News flash’ alerts watchers to snow geese sightings in Sequim area

A FEW DAYS ago, a “news flash” came across my desk. Actually, it was a bird-watcher’s news flash.

Reporters in the field Joan and Chuck Bakeman were on the scene and recognized some unexpected visitors.

“Snow geese have come to the Sequim area to winter over.”

Included with this “flash” was a photograph of at least 50 snow geese. Also in the picture were two trumpeter swans.

The Bakemans raised an interesting question: “Did this group of snow geese join the swans and become rerouted away from their usual Skagit destination?”

They just might have a point. As the goose flies, the Skagit region isn’t that far from Sequim.

Trumpeter swans

Trumpeter swans, on the other hand, are a familiar fall and winter sight on this part of the Peninsula. No sightings of swan flocks have been reported yet.

The two with the snow geese may also have taken a wrong turn. Once the hundred or so swans that winter around Sequim arrive, it will be interesting to see if the pair join them.

I expect they will, but what about the snow geese?

When these questions were posed, I headed for one of my favorite books on Washington’s birds.

Compilation

Terry Wahl, Bill Tweit and Steven Mlodinow are the editors of “Birds of Washington, Status and Distribution.” The records they compiled cover decades of observation and research.

This is the first book I turn to when there is a question about whether or not a bird has been seen in a specific area.

Have snow geese ever wintered in Sequim? Have they even migrated through the area?

What I found is interesting.

“The snow geese that winter in Washington originate at Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea off northern Siberia. Most of these birds are in two massive flocks at the Stillaguamish and Skagit River deltas. Small numbers winter at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and on Sauvie Island in Oregon.”

Noteworthy records

The only information regarding whether or not these geese have visited the Sequim area mentioned one bird. It was included in the noteworthy records for snow geese.

One bird was reported between Oct. 15 and November at Dungeness. This was in 1985.

In talking with other birders, I’ve been told of other single bird sightings, except for one friend who is a hunter and someone familiar with the birds and the area for decades.

Herb remembered when geese from the Skagit would “visit” the Sequim farmlands but said it has been 30 or more years since he has seen any.

The question for now is whether this flock will stay the entire winter or continue southward toward Ridgefield or even cross the water eastward to the Skagit area.

I hope they stay and are forerunners for what might become a regular seasonal treat.

Spotted last month

The Bakemans spotted the flock Oct. 30 while looking for returning trumpeter swans.

Not only were there two swans with the snow geese, at least 100 Canada geese were feeding in the same place.

Of course I couldn’t resist taking a look for myself, and there they were, right where the Bakemans saw them.

The two swans were also still with them, but the Canada geese numbers had grown into the hundreds. There was a huge flock of them.

These birds were in the northwest corner of a field bordered by Port Williams Road on the north and Schmuck Road on the east. This was very near Port Williams Road and about half a mile west of Schmuck Road.

It will be interesting to discover if the birds stay in the Sequim area or if they only stopped to rest and feed before moving on.

Alert to sightings

If you see them or if you find more swans, be sure to let me know.

I like “bird-watcher’s news flashes.”

________

Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: joanpcarson@comcast.net.

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