The first autumn snowfall in Vermont is the landing of Snow Geese in the Champlain Valley. This year these white wonders have been few and far between, except for one cooperative flock at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, which has given hundreds of visitors excellent views. The first birds fluttered in during Wildlife Day, October 5, perhaps 1,000 strong. More birds arrived daily. By October 15, estimates by observers were 2,000-2,500, but with the flock still growing I planned to overfly, take pictures and count birds from the photos. Weather (and lack of feathered wings) kept me on the ground, so I did two clicker-counts of individuals from the kiosk along Route 17, averaging 3,324 geese.
By October 26 the flock seemed yet larger, so in a howling gale (again the airplane stayed hangared) I clicker-counted individual birds from the kiosk. I also took photos and did a second count at home. The live count was more accurate, because as geese moved about I could see birds that would be hidden on the photographs. New total: 5,400. Estimates by birders before my counts were usually less than half the counted total. Estimates after I posted my numbers topped out at about 85% of the total.
(By the way, a Golden Eagle, rare in Vermont, launched the goose flock for visiting birders on Saturday, November 2.)
Want a good count? Get a good view or photo and use a clicker! Most years the geese linger well into November; they were still there on Nov. 4. Try counting the birds in the photo below. My own count is revealed at the very bottom of this blog post.
Ian Worley, Professor Emeritus and retired director of the Environmental Program at the University of Vermont, is a pilot and dedicated birder (and eBirder) living in Vermont’s Champlain Lowlands. His Snow Goose count from the image above: 361.