Boy Did I Finally Find the Snow Geese!

Over the course of winter 2020 I tried many times, all unsuccessfully, to see the Snow Geese that winter along our coast each year. Hundreds of thousands waterfowl call the coastal region of North Carolina home each winter, so how hard could it be to see them? The odds were in my favor! I kept seeing sightings on eBird of hundreds if not thousands of Snow Geese in a few areas that I was going to visit and just knew I would get to see them! I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got up several mornings before sunrise to be in place for their arrival; they must have known I was waiting and changed their plans because I never saw one Snow Goose!

This year, I hoped to see them but after last year’s luck was hesitant. My first Snow Goose sighting was in late November at Pocosin Lakes NWR. There was a huge flock of them on Pungo Lake, but they were all the way across the lake. Surely that wasn’t the only look at Snow Geese I would have this year! Was it? After my time at Pungo Lake, I headed to the coast for a few days of birding, surely I would see some at Pea Island! Not a single Snow Goose the entire trip to the coast!

Snow Geese across the lake with Tundra Swan in the foreground.

But luck was on my side on my next attempt! I saw them! And then I saw them again and again, up close and at a distance! Hundreds and then thousands! It was incredible! So incredible I spent three days and two evenings standing in the freezing wind, not wanting to miss a thing. So incredible I wanted to take my family back with me immediately so they could witness what I had just experienced! It was truly mesmerizing!

Thousands of Snow Geese coming into the corn fields in the late afternoon!

Let me backtrack just a little. While out at the coast, Nags Head, NC to be exact. I saw and was able to watch hundreds of Snow Geese while I was there for a few days and it was great! I saw the geese, and many of the other wintering waterfowl and had a great time. But I kept hearing about the Snow Goose “blast” “blast-off” or “lift-off” and wanted to experience it like many of my friends had before me. I was anxious that if I waited too long, they would be gone and I would have missed it. I stuck with my original plan to bird the coast and check out the lakes on my way home I am glad I did because I got some nice, close looks.

Young Snow Goose flapping its wings to dry off.
Snow Geese flyby at Pea Island NWR!
A pair of Snow Geese coming in for a landing at Pea Island NWR.

I left the coast in the early afternoon and planned to stop at Pocosin Lakes NWR on my way home to take in the wildlife there. This is also where a huge number of Snow Geese had been wintering and where they had been gathering in the late afternoons and into the evenings. I had spotted a huge flock of them back in November/December but they stayed on the the other side of the lake and I didn’t get any decent shots of them. I arrived around 3 PM and there was already a large group of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese in the cornfields eating and carrying on but I decided to do a quick drive around the refuge to see what else was going on. Unfortunately the roads were closed due to all the rain so I turned around and went back to watch the swans and geese. I am so thankful for closed roads or I may have missed one of the most amazing sights ever.

Thousands of Snow Geese filling the fields in the late afternoon!

I had no idea what to expect, so I just settled in, watched, and took lots of pictures! By lots of pictures, I mean tons! Clouds and clouds of Snow Geese started appearing on the horizon and then filling the fields, along with the Tundra Swan but they mostly kept separate. Just as they started filling in the fields something would set them off and all at once they would take to the sky again. I mean, ALL AT ONCE! It was if it had been synchronized! Truly something to see and hear. Then they would circle around and around and finally start to settle down again, and then it would happen again! All the spectators on the side of the road just watched in amazement with their cameras. It was so cool, I knew I had to stay another day and witness it again the next afternoon. Which is exactly what I did!

Thousands of Snow Geese coming in from everywhere!
Arriving Snow Geese filling the fields behind the Tundra Swans.
Blue Morph Snow Geese with the dark bodies and wings.

I stayed until it was too dark to see anything. I drove the three hours home with a huge smile on my face and a plan to return, soon, spinning in my head. If you have never witnessed Snow Geese migration, I highly recommend it! These beauties will be heading back north, shortly, to their breeding grounds on the Arctic Tundra.

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