Though a winter storm that brought several inches of snow to mid-latitude states like Missouri and Kansas this week will slow their migration, millions of light geese are poised to make the push north through the Central Flyway in the coming weeks.
Midwinter surveys last month by waterfowl managers throughout the Central Flyway indicated large concentrations of light geese in wintering areas, including portions of Kansas, where 2 million snow and Ross’s geese were tallied. Some of these birds already began pushing north in recent days as the weather warmed and winds blew out of the south.
“We just started to see some leading-edge adult birds moving in this week,” says veteran Missouri guide and Habitat Flats co-owner Tony Vandemore. “Their time here will be short-lived, though. We’re forecasted to get eight inches of snow, so adios to those geese until they make the move back north again,”
This back-and-forth movement of light geese can dominate periods of the spring migration, but Vandemore is concerned that the lack of snow to the north of Missouri may mean that the birds won’t have to pump their brakes much when warmer weather returns. “There just isn’t much between here and the Dakotas to slow them down at this point,” he says.
There is currently little or no snow across much of Iowa, Nebraska, and virtually all of South Dakota, but that could change next week, when a winter weather system is expected to impact the region. The chance of future storms increases, too, when the calendar flips to March – a month that tends to bring larger amounts of wet, heavy snow to the northern plains.
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Senior Waterfowl Biologist Rocco Murano says that deep snow is a key ingredient to slowing down the light goose migration. Smaller numbers of adult geese will push up into areas of this snow, but the bulk of the migration will not move north until those snow levels have decreased after days of warm temperatures and strong winds from the south.
“As of today, the conditions we have would allow geese to blow right through here, but that can change,” Murano says. “In order to slow things down, we are going to need to get some significant snow in a hurry.”