CASPER - Few can resist – whether out of envy, admiration or wonder –immediately searching the skies upon hearing the honking of geese or following a group of ducks out of eye shot after catching a glimpse of their rapid flight.
Man has a hard time getting his fill of the waterfowl spectacle, and nature addresses this need by parading the birdsnot just once, but twice annually. And right now, during this return migration to northern breeding grounds, is the best time to take in the enchanting phenomena.
“Just like we had increased numbers of ducks in the fall, we have improved numbers of birds for spring viewing,” said Larry Roberts, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s waterfowl biologist.“This is a great period in history for spring waterfowl viewing.”
Ducks know shotguns are left in the cabinet and act accordingly. Their relaxed state is an asset to the spring waterfowl viewer by allowing a close approach. But it wasn’t always so. Spring duck hunting was legal through 1919.
The main event of the spring migration is “courtship flights.” Up to a dozen amorous drake mallards will chase a hen with rapid and twisting navigation across the marsh.
“This spring’s migration could be a little convoluted,” Roberts said. “Waterfowl and sandhill crane distributions have been impacted by snow and ice cover in the Central Flyway.”
But even with spring migration possibly being a little off schedule, the veteran biologist still urges wildlife lovers to take advantage of the phenomena. Roberts recommends the Game and Fish’s Table Mountain and Springer habitat areas in Goshen County and the Laramie Plains lakes as prime areas to see waterfowl in eastern Wyoming. In westernWyoming, good waterfowl-watching sites include the Bear River wetlands near Cokeville, the Yellowtail Habitat Area near Lovell and the Ocean Lake Area near Pavillion.
Some experienced birders say floating stretches of the Green, Big Horn and North Platte rivers is the most exciting way to enjoy the spring migration.
And just five hours east of Cheyenne in the Kearney-to-Grand Island area of Nebraska is the continent’s largest staging of sandhill cranes each March. Up to 500,000 of the long-legged birds use the “Big Bend” stretch of the Platte River and surrounding grain fields to recharge on their way to arctic nesting grounds. The birds are easily seen from back roads in the area and several organizations have viewing blinds. The Rainwater Basin during this time of year will also host millions of light geese, Canada geese, white-fronted geese, and pintails just to name of few of the species that are part of the spectacular viewing. This is the time and place of see light geeseform “tornado-like” formations as they circle loafing or foraging sites. Contact the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for more information about the truly unforgettable spectacle.
(Contact: Larry Roberts (307) 473-3400)