Our Saskatchewan license plates proclaim that this is the “Land of Living Skies,” I suppose that refers to the gorgeous sunsets that we see pretty much every evening. In spring and fall it could also describe the flocks of migratory birds that pass over our heads.
Especially in fall. In spring the birds are in a hurry to get to their summer breeding grounds in the arctic, but in fall many of them linger for a month or two, gleaning in the harvested fields.
In summer, every pond, slough and lake is filled with ducks of some kind, along with a variety of smaller shore birds. A few Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes spend the summer here, but most go farther north and are only seen, and heard, in spring and fall. Tundra Swans pause here only briefly in spring and fall.
By now most of the birds of summer have left for a warmer climate, Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes were around in abundance for awhile but by now they too have moved on.
The Snow Geese are still here. We can hear them on a nearby pond pretty well any time of the day or night. Their voice is a little higher pitched than Canada Geese and they gather in much larger flocks. There are two colour morphs among them, white and blue, with the white form being predominant. As we drive down the roads we will see a field or a pond that is turned white by huge flocks of Snow Geese. As we get closer, we see that there is some colour mottling because of the darker geese mingled with the white ones.
This morning at 7:30, I was sitting at my computer when I heard a sound above the humming of the furnace (yes, we are getting into that time of year here in Saskatchewan). I rushed outside to look and there was a huge cloud of Snow Geese flying low overhead, all talking at once. I believe there must have been 2,000 of them. Probably heading for a field somewhere for breakfast.
Over half of these birds will have been born in spring and have never made this journey before. But they know where they are going and next spring they will make the journey back along the same flyway, just as Snow Geese have done for as long as there have been Snow Geese.