Snows over Vandalia

Returning from Cincinnati this afternoon, we encountered a large flock of snow geese circling above Vandalia, Illinois.  On their way to Arctic breeding grounds, they were likely searching for a safe resting and feeding site on the broad floodplain of the Kaskaskia River; smaller flocks were also seen above the Mississippi Valley, near St. Louis.

After wintering on cropfields and in wetlands of the Southern U.S., snow geese begin their northward journey in February, with the vanguard flocks arriving during the first week of that month.  They may linger in the Heartland for a week or more but will soon move on to other attractive rest stops further north.  While some areas (such as the Kaskaskia floodplain) are used every year, flocks may alight on almost any field or grassland, producing spectacles that are often flashed across the Internet by inspired observers.  By mid March, most of these hardy travelers have departed for more northern latitudes.

The landscape of central Illinois is still gripped by winter and a light snow dusted the brown fields and barren woods as we drove toward Missouri.  But that vocal flock of snow geese, the first I have observed this season, offered reassurance that our climb toward spring has begun.