08 Apr Snow Geese
The Skagit Valley, tucked away in northwest Washington, is a magical place. Lying between the San Juan Islands and the northern Cascade Mountain Range, the valley floor flattens out like a gigantic saucer with views that take time to contemplate and appreciate. Snow capped peaks of the Mount Baker National Forest to the east, to the southwest the majestic snow-covered Olympic Range, and to the west an archipelago distinguished by the unique topography, history, and culture of each island. Orcas, Lummi, Lopez, and San Juan are the most prominent, mountainous, forested, inhabited but circled by rings of small islands, some with an occasional home, beckoning, inviting reverie and fantasy. Facing them on the mainland, the Chuckanut Range to the north of Skagit Valley dramatically skirts the water’s edge from Bellingham to the Samish Bay.
The Skagit Valley is best know for its annual tulip bloom, the second largest in the world. First come the daffodils, painting acres and acres of farmland bright yellow, often against a gray Spring sky. Then the tulips, red, purple, yellow, stretching to the horizon. Surrounding the bulb fields are beautiful small and mid-sized farms, one of the few intact agricultural valleys west of the Mississippi. When they are in full bloom in mid-summer, with an evening sun setting over the islands you will truly feel that you are standing in the land of enchantment.
In winter and early spring, when the fields are still barren, new visitors arrive. Migrating birds swarm across the sky and settle onto the farmlands. Two of the unique species who return to the Valley are the Bald Eagles and the snow geese. The snow geese come in unimaginable numbers along with a smaller migration of swans and spend the winter months spread out over the valley farms until they are ready to migrate back to Alaska and Canada. I am always thrilled by their arrival. These miraculous acts of nature, a winter migration of uncountable numbers, give me a sense of wonder and pleasure. The way these giant flocks fly low overhead, merging and breaking apart, individual yet always seeming to be unfathomably connected to each other. Thoughts in my head range from who is the leader of this mass of life, how is it they act as a single force, to what are they eating, who chooses the fields to land in, where do they bed down at night? So many things to learn about them. But most memorable is their flight, the grace of their mighty wings, the beautiful line of their outstretched necks and the amazing agility of their technically perfect landings.
With all that is swirling around us in today’s world and the stress that often comes as a result, seeing these beings that exist outside of the human reality is wonderfully uplifting. They function within an uninterrupted order that has existed for who knows how many thousands of years. And it seems to work for them as they continue to thrive and exist as grand inhabitants of this lovely place we call the Skagit Valley.