Snows in a Blue Winter Sky

Returning to Missouri over the past two days, we left the colors and fragrance in south Georgia and, as we approached the Appalachians, were once again shrouded by low, gray clouds.  This morning, we crossed the Cumberland Plateau in heavy rain and then crawled through a Nashville rush hour in a steady drizzle.  The precipitation ended as we entered Kentucky but the wintry overcast gave no sign of breaking up; only the hunched forms of red-tailed hawks provided signs of life along the highway.

Finally, as we traveled through southern Illinois, patches of blue began to appear and cold sunshine broke through west of Mt. Vernon.  Even better, a flock of snow geese wavered in the clear, blue sky, circling above the dry fields of crop stubble.  As I reported in December, I had endured a complete autumn season without observing those vocal travelers (my personal favorites) and had concluded that my next opportunity would be during their "spring migration" in February; today's sighting was thus a special and unexpected treat.

Not long ago, almost all of the snow geese that migrate through the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys wintered in coastal marshes of East Texas and Louisiana.  Now, benefitting from nutritious crop fields of the American Heartland, many never reach the Gulf Coast, stopping to winter in agricultural areas of the lower Mississippi and Arkansas Valleys.