Life is So Fragile

During my recent trip to Squaw Creek NWR for some migrating bird photography, we were overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens). Although most of the time with the Snow Geese was fun and very active, we did see the dark side of nature.

For the past few years, Snow Geese have been literally eating themselves out of their summer grounds in the Arctic tundra, mainly due to the increased numbers of Snow Geese. In conjunction with this unfavorable situation, the geese often get sick or become weak during their annual migration to the southern United States. This post is about one such instance, showing how fragile nature can be.

While driving the refuge’s auto tour route, we came upon this single goose that was ~100 feet away from the rest of the geese, and walking towards the shoreline:

Snow Goose walking on ice

When he reached the shore, he continued walking into the tall growth along the shoreline:

Ill Snow Goose on dry land

After stumbling around in the tall weeds for ~5 minutes, he struggled to climb out of the vegetation and back onto the ice. Once he was on the ice, he walked down the shoreline a little ways and then stopped and appeared to be watching his reflection in the ice:

An ill Snow Goose tries to get water through the ice

But not long after this last image was made, he lay down on the ice, laid his head down, and within ~30 minutes his life faded away. I guess he was either dead of hunger or from being weak from the long flight south from the Arctic. Either way, it was a sad moment to see this play out in front of me. But, as is often the case in nature, the loss of this life helped sustain other life. During the rest of the day on the refuge, the still body of this goose lay on the ice undisturbed. But the next morning, it was gone. And many of the 120 Bald Eagles on the refuge were busy feeding on geese … made me wonder how many lives were nourished by this single loss.

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