Early Snows over Kansas

Driving back to Missouri over the past two days, I encountered the usual mix of winter wildlife, including rough-legged and red-tailed hawks, scattered flocks of Canada geese and roadside flocks of Lapland longspurs.  But the highlight of my journey would appear in central Kansas.

Riding the warm, southerly breeze, several flocks of snow geese wavered above the Interstate between Salina and Junction City.  Several weeks early, those vocal Arctic residents were perhaps seeking some cool air as this week's heat wave invades the Great Plains.  They'll likely settle down when they begin to encounter frozen lakes and may turn back south if necessary.

Unlike songbirds, that migrate in concert with the daylight cycle, waterfowl are fickle travelers, often delaying their fall exodus if open water and food is plentiful and sometimes jumping the gun in late winter or spring, taking advantage of strong tail winds or mild weather.  Of course, such behavior can prove fatal if late season snowstorms coat their feeding grounds; then again, snow geese are hardy creatures and their burgeoning population demonstrates that they are both adaptable and "street wise."