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Adam Sotelo, Deseret News

Snow geese arrive for their own celebration

By John Hollenhorst | Posted - Feb. 23, 2017 at 6:50 p.m.


7 photos

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DELTA — It's a yearly spectacle.

In a remote stretch of rural Utah, suddenly there are more honks than an Los Angeles traffic jam. The annual invasion of snow geese is underway. Thousands of the white birds — perhaps tens of thousands — are arriving just in time for their own celebration today and Saturday.

"Oh there comes some; whole bunches of them," LaMar Alvey said as he and his wife, Donna, scanned the flocks with binoculars.

Bird lovers come from near and — well — not too far.

"We come from Payson," Alvey said, "just to come down and see the geese."

The snow geese are mostly white with slashes of black on the wings. They settle in for a short while every year at Gunnison Bend Reservoir within walking distance of Delta's Main Street.

"They're fantastic.," Alvey said. "They start coming, and they just keep a coming."

"They're just fun to watch," echoed Donna Alvey, as the couple spied on the geese from the front seat of their car.

"It's really a waterfowl haven and rest area," said Lynn Zubeck, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Personally, he doesn't seem to mind the the noise and what he calls the "chaos" of the snow geese.

"Whatever I'm doing," Zubeck said, "I just stop and watch them. They're so beautiful."

The snow geese are from the frozen tundra of Canada. Like human snowbirds, they love to vacation for the winter in warmer places like Mexico and southern California. Like robins, their arrival west of Delta is a sure sign that spring is here, or at least coming soon.

"As spring begins to progress," Zubeck explained, "they move northward. And they're just constantly pushing the snow so, as soon as the snow melts, they start showing up. And they do that all the way back up to the tundra."

During their brief annual stopover in Utah, it's pretty much chowtime all the time as the flocks shuttle back and forth between the reservoir and nearby farm fields. As long as they stick to leftover corn from last fall, no one begrudges the birds and their voracious appetite. But sometimes farmers don't exactly welcome them with open arms.

"Where it gets touchy," Zubeck said, "is when they start getting on the green, the green-up, in the springtime."

Regardless, the community welcomes the birds each year with a celebration, the Delta Snow Goose Festival. It kicks off today and continues Saturday alongside the reservoir.

"They're just awesome to watch," Donna Alvey said

"Just fun to watch," her husband agreed. "We like all wildlife. Whatever's in season. If it's deer, we watch the deer. If it's geese, we watch the geese. Elk? We watch the elk. We don't care. We ain't got nothing better to do."

As LaMar Alvey chuckled with the thought, Donna Alvie added: "When you get old, you're (happy with) any reason to get out of the house — hah, hah."

Photos

John Hollenhorst

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