Dow's Bird Photos

December 5, 2018

For the past week we've enjoyed watching several thousand Cackling Geese, along with three dozen Snow Geese and a few ducks, congregate in the cow pasture just west of our house. The first skeins arrive just before sunrise, with a dozen more queued up like airliners at a busy airport, and generally leave an hour after sunset. Periodically throughout the day the entire flock takes flight like a murmuration of Starlings, or a flock of Dunlin trying to evade a Peregrine Falcon, cackling loudly the whole time. Sometimes I can spot a Bald Eagle half-heartedly chasing through the flock, so I suspect the eagle is what causes all the commotion. Yesterday I decided to try to capture this Wild Kingdom moment in video at both ends of the day. (Scroll down to find the video link.)

OPAS 113

Cackling Geese over Dungeness at Thornton Drive. 12/6/2018

If you have Internet Explorer 10 (aka Microsoft Edge) or current versions of Chrome, Firefox, or a new iPad, you should be able to play this video. The first 75 seconds of the video were shot from my front porch about 7:30 yesterday morning. The wind was a nuisance in the morning, and I considered replacing the audio track with a recording without wind, but then we'd have lost the cool Doppler effect as the geese approached, then flew on past, turned around and did it again in the opposite direction. The next four minutes were shot just after sunset, from Cays Road looking east. You can tell from the audio level that I am much closer to the geese in the evening. One interesting thing I noticed was that each time the flock returned to the ground, the Snow Geese landed first. You can see this at the end of this section. The last 75 seconds were shot about 3:30 this afternoon from the street in front of our house. Something flushed the geese and instead of settling back down like they usually do, they flew right over me and headed east, probably to the pasture at the corner of Anderson and Clark Roads.

Click Here to play the video in your web browser (requires an HTML5-compliant web browser). When you finish, click the HOME button at the bottom left edge of the page, or click the picture of me in the upper left corner of the page, to return to this page.

If the video won't play click here to try it with your system software.

I am still trying to figure out where they spend the night. When they leave here they head east, so perhaps they are heading to the bay at 3 Crabs, or to Roberta's Pond. My friend Denny heard them flying over his place in Dungeness about 8:00 this evening, so Roberta's Pond is a good possibility. I asked Denny to count the birds in the video. He was very precise, and claims there are 2,687! Since that is a prime number, I have to give it more credibility than my brother's count of 2,893, which is not a prime number (he missed prime by 4). We all know that birds always flock in prime numbers, right?

Bird of the Day


December 6, 2018

Clallam County is host to six species of geese. Historically, Brant have been the most prevalent on the annual Christmas Bird Count, averaging 1,528 geese counted from 1980-2015. Canada Geese come in a distant second at 576 average per year. During that same time frame, Cackling Geese have averaged only 22 per year. Last year there were a whopping 388 cacklers counted. Greater White-fronted Geese show up in small numbers every year, as do the less common Snow Goose and the rare Emperor Goose.

We've enjoyed spectacular views of a large flock of Cackling Geese this week, as well as a few dozen Snow Geese. These are greater numbers for both species than I've seen here in Clallam County since moving here eleven years ago. If they hang around another ten days we will record record numbers of both species for the 2018 Christmas Bird Count. Shortly after sunrise this morning the geese started arriving in stages, but they would touch down in the pasture then quickly take off again, soaring around a couple times then heading back the way they came. I'm used to seeing large flocks of starlings and shorebirds change directions all at the same time and fly close together, but I've never seen large birds bunch up so close like these do. There is obviously more separation between the geese than it appears in this photo. Today I learned that the term for a flock of geese flying close together like this is a plump of geese.

Cackling Geese

A plump of Cackling Geese, Dungeness Bay, WA. 12/6/2018

None of the geese stayed in the pasture this morning, and we decided maybe the sub-freezing temperature last night froze all the standing water in the pasture and the geese didn't like that. I took a closer look in the mid-afternoon as I drove by the pasture and didn't see a single goose. I then found about 50 in a field farther east, at Anderson and Clark Roads. The Snow Geese were with the cacklers, and there were a dozen or more Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in. The next field east was full of Trumpeter Swans. When we lived in Seattle we had to drive an hour to find Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans in the Skagit Valley. It is such a treat to just have to drive down the road for three minutes to see them here.

Below are some pictures of the various geese found locally.

Snow Goose and Cackling Goose

Snow Goose and Cackling Goose, Lamar Road, Sequim, WA. 2/24/2014

Snow Goose and Cackling Goose

Snow Goose, Cackling Goose, and Canada Goose, Lamar Road, Sequim, WA. 2/24/2014

Snow Goose and Cackling Goose

22 Cackling Geese, 3 Snow Geese, and 1 Greater White-fronted Goose, Towne Road, Sequim, WA. 11/4/2010

Snow Geese

Snow Geese, Skagit Valley, WA. 12/17/2005

Snow Goose

Snow Goose, Skagit Valley, WA. 1/27/2007

Greater White-fronted Goose and Cackling Geese

Greater White-fronted Goose and Cackling Geese, Carrie Blake Park, Sequim, WA. 10/10/2010

Greater White-fronted Geese

Greater White-fronted Geese, Les Jones' Marsh, Dungeness, WA. 10/5/2008

Canada Goose

Canada Goose, Carrie Blake Park, Sequim, WA. 10/23/2011

Canada Goose

Canada Goose, Carrie Blake Park, Sequim, WA. 5/20/2010

Canada Geese with chicks

Canada Geese with chicks, Helen's Pond, Dungeness, WA. 5/6/2012

Brant Geese

Brant Geese, Dungeness Bay, Dungeness, WA. 3/8/2011

Brant Geese

Brant Geese, Dungeness Bay, Dungeness, WA. 5/16/2009

Emperor Geese

Emperor Geese, Dungeness Bay, Dungeness, WA. 1/11/2012

Emperor Geese

Emperor Geese, Dungeness Bay, Dungeness, WA. 1/11/2012