Last weekend the city of Delta, Utah held its annual Snow Geese Festival. Each year the Gunnison Bend Reservoir near Delta is inundated with thousands of geese stopping on their lengthy trip to northwest Canada. Every year snow geese stop at the reservoir to rest and feed.
At this point, the geese are about a third of the way through a 3,000 mile migration from the Mexican border in California to the Arctic Circle in northwest Canada. The agricultural fields around Delta provide some of their favorite foods, such as leftover corn from the fall harvest and recently sprouted wheat.
Scientists still aren’t entirely sure why birds like Snow Geese risk such a long and dangerous trip. One theory is the birds are seeking remote habitat that is not as populated with predators and is safer for their goslings.
Lynn Zubeck, a biologist at the Clear Lake Wildlife Management Area, says the geese can only move north as fast as the snowline recedes.
“Open water versus frozen water, snow-covered fields versus open green fields - they only go as far as Mother Nature lets them go," he said. "If they are shut off from their food or their water sometimes they will even come back.”
Conservation Outreach Coordinator Phil Tuttle said the months of February and early March are the best time to witness the snow geese migration in Delta. During the annual Snow Geese Festival, Tuttle says employees with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources were available to answer questions and set up spotting scopes to view the geese.
“You know you can always go out and see a goose here or there but I don’t think you get to see something this magnificent as 20,000 that are flying in one giant flock," he said. :The sound of that honking and making noise, in addition to their wings - that’s a pretty amazing site.”
If you can’t catch the geese down in Delta in the next few days, it may be possible to view them at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on their journey to the Canadian tundra.