Snow geese returning to southeast Iowa

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


On her way back from Ringgold County Monday, Washington County Naturalist Pam Holz said that she can?t remember having ever seen so many geese in the skies over Iowa.

She said that hundreds, if not thousands, of blue geese and snow geese were in the air. She explained that blue and snow geese are the same species with slightly different coloring. The flocks themselves, she said, stretched as far as the eye could see. Likewise, many people in Washington County reported seeing hundreds of geese flying overhead on Monday.

?It?s spring,? Holz explained. ?It has been different the last couple of years, but in the past we have seen geese on the ice before the ice melts. Last year it was so mild it never actually froze so you can?t compare. I actually expected the geese a little earlier. Now that the weather is warming up and the water is opening up, they are following spring. The further north it warms up, the further north they go.?

She said traditionally geese are the first migrants back after winter. Songbirds return based on how much light there is during a day period.

While Holz still expects another cold snap, she said additional cold days would not impact water fowl. She said geese have a lot of fat on them to begin with and, as long as the water doesn?t refreeze and the birds have a food source, they would stay.

?I couldn?t believe how many I saw yesterday,? Holz said. ?One of the things I learned in my ornithology class is that birds migrating wait until they have a nice south wind. You get waves when the wind is just right. I?ll bet the wind was just right. it was a sunny day and the wind was moving in the right direction, so they decided to move.?

She said geese would continue to pass through the area. She also said that people should be on the lookout for swans. She said over the next few weeks the geese would be settling into wherever they land and would start nesting in about a month.

Holz also said that she had seen an eagle flying in Washington County on Tuesday. She said the eagles should be leaving over the next couple of months and that they would gradually leave until the normal spring residents have returned. She said they would head back to Canada.