The snows are back. No, not a snowstorm, but a large flock of Snow Geese have made their way to Lehigh County from their summer breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, a flock of about 500 snows descended like snow flakes on a cut cornfield belonging to GEO Chemicals (formerly Trojan Powder Company) on the west side of Mauch Chunk Road and across from the intersection of Mechanicsville Road. The snows’ nasal honking can easily be heard if lowering a window in your vehicle. This is my first sighting of them in the area, but they may have put down elsewhere in the valley.
These particular snows landed amidst a small flock of Canada geese that were foraging for leftover corn spewed from harvesting machines. And further down the road a bit, were probably an equal number of Canada’s in a cut cornfield but on the east side of Mauch Chunk Road.
As for snows, the season in the North Zone runs from Nov. 19-Jan. 11. For the South Zone, it runs Nov. 19-Jan. 18. In the Atlantic Zone, the split seasons run Oct. 1-Jan. 25, then reopens Jan. 27-Apr. 24. The seasons are long because they need to be culled, say biologists, as their burgeoning populations are decimating the grasslands of the tundra. In other words, the snows are eating themselves out of house and home. And local farmers who plant winter wheat detest snows because they can devour a wheat field in a few days with their foracious appetites.
Here are some interesting facts you may not know about Snow Geese:
* In wintering and migrating flocks that are feeding, lookouts keep an eye out for predators. Upon sighting a threat, they call out to the rest of the flock, which may take flight.
* Snow Geese make epic journeys by air, but they are impressive on foot, too. Within the first three weeks of hatching, goslings may walk up to 50 miles with their parents from the nest to a more suitable brood-rearing area. Molting Snow Geese can outrun many predators.
* Females forage up to 18 hours a day once they arrive at breeding grounds, but eat little once they begin incubating the eggs.
* Food passes through the Snow Goose’s digestive tract in only an hour or two, generating 6 to 15 droppings per hour. The defecation rate is highest when a goose is grubbing for rhizomes, because such food is very high in fiber and the goose inevitably swallows mud.
* The oldest Snow Goose on record, shot in Texas in 1999, was 27 and a half.
* Snow Goose hunting in the eastern United States was stopped in 1916 because of low population levels. Hunting was allowed again in 1975 after populations had recovered. Since then, their populations have continued to grow, to the point that some areas of tundra nesting habitat are starting to suffer.
Hunting these extremely wary birds is tough. Hunters usually have to employ at least 50 decoys or more, or white cloths on sticks stuck into the ground, to lure them into range. And the geese are unpredictable as they may be in a particular field one day and another the next. The daily limit on them is 25 daily, with no possession limit.
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Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.