the blog of Seldom Seen Photography

Of Geese and Daffodils

Snow Geese and Conway ChurchFebruary is a time of two seasons in western Washington. Winter still rules in the mountains (see my last post) and spring arrives in the lowlands. One of the best places to see the meeting of the seasons is on Skagit River delta west of the town of Mount Vernon. Between the South and North Forks of the Skagit River, lies Fir Island – home to thousands of snow geese every winter. Just north of the North Fork lies thousands of fertile acres, many planted with spring flowers.

The snow geese generally arrive in November and are gone by April, with the peak number from mid-December through mid-January. At their peak, there are easily tens of thousands of geese present on Fir Island. Besides the geese, trumpeter swans and tundra swans also migrate to the area. Like bald eagles? Plenty of them as well.

The field north of the river have a few geese as well, but are mainly known for their spring daffodils and tulips. By the time the tulips arrive, the geese are gone, but if your timing it right, you can see the snow geese and blooming daffodil fields on the same trip.

Six years ago, during the first weekend of March, I went to the area and found a huge flock of geese and acres of blooming yellow daffodils. Last week, friend and I made the trip, hoping to duplicate my timing of 2010. And we saw thousands of geese, a few swans, and a dozen or so bald eagles. Unfortunately, we were a bit early for the daffodils – they were just starting to bloom. I would guess that this week and next may be prime blooming.

To see the geese and swans, head north from Seattle on Interstate 5 and take the Conway exit (exit #221). Turn west off the freeway, and at the roundabout in Conway, get on Fir Island Road. The geese can usually be found in the fields either north or south of Fir Island Road a mile or two after you cross the Skagit River. The geese spend the night on the water, and fly back inland during the morning. Last week, we arrived a little before sunrise, a bit early for the geese. But by the time we had finished taking a few sunrise shots, we heard honking on the air. We watched geese fly in in groups of 2 to 200, most landing at a field a few hundred meters off the road. Later in the morning, a few bigger flocks (maybe a 1,000 birds) flew in. It was an amazing sight.

With luck, the flocks will land close to the road and you can get good shots with a 70-200mm zoom lens (as was the case when saw them in 2010). That was not the case last week for me, and I found myself wanting something in the 400 to 600 mm range (which I do not own). I shot with my 70-200mm with a 1.4x teleconvertor.

Want the best of winter and spring in the Puget Sound lowlands – take my advice and try the geese and daffodils of the Skagit River delta in late February and early March.

One of a dozen or so bald eagles we found.

One of a dozen or so bald eagles we found.

Geese flying in shortly after sunrise.

Geese flying in shortly after sunrise.

A flock flying in later in the morning with Mount Baker in the background.

A flock flying in later in the morning with Mount Baker in the background.

Daffodils - just starting to bloom. No need for a big telephoto lens here!

Daffodils – just starting to bloom. No need for a big telephoto lens here!

It got cloudier as the morning progressed, but that made for some dramatic clouds over the daffodil fields (Olympic Mountains in the background).

It got cloudier as the morning progressed, but that made for some dramatic clouds over the daffodil fields (Olympic Mountains in the background).

This shot is from 2010 when the geese were much closer to the road.

This shot is from 2010 when the geese were much closer to the road and my 70-200mm lens was plenty big to get some “wing” action.

 

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7 responses

  1. awesome all

    February 28, 2016 at 7:32 pm

  2. A great trip it seems, love the photo with the dramatic clouds.

    February 28, 2016 at 10:58 pm

  3. Thanks for the interesting and timely information Joe. You did get some fun images as well! Now I am getting excited for the tulips…. thanks so much Joe!

    February 29, 2016 at 12:00 am

    • Thanks Ernie. Yes, the tulips are great. Amazing colors and endless compositions.

      February 29, 2016 at 12:09 pm

  4. Pingback: I’m Back and A Daytrip Suggestion | Park Preview

  5. Really like that first shot with the geese taking off and the church on the left–so inviting.

    March 6, 2016 at 4:53 am

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