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The PhDs of the Waterfowl World

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The PhDs of the Waterfowl World
On October 10th, 2019, Bev and I saw a flock of about 30 PhDs getting quite comfortable on a pond at Bosque del Apache NWR. This NWR is south of the small village of San Antonio, NM, which is about 8 miles to where the northern boundary is. As for the PhDs, this was a group of lesser snows that came down here about a month before the early birds come down.

My friend and sometimes hunting partner, Tim, is a retired game warden and waterfowl biologist. One day while we were out and about looking at the thousands of light geese he said, "Just think, the average age of a snow goose here at this refuge is 10 years old." This was back around the beginning of the 2000s. "It is amazing what they do," he continued. "Every day here, they will depart the refuge, circling skyward to about at least a 1/4 mile and then head north to the state's feeding grounds for waterfowl and sandhill cranes. That is about a 35 mile one way trip. Once over the fields to feed on, they begin circling down, always being careful to stay within the boundaries of the refuge up there. When they are done eating they come back to the refuge here doing everything the same. Circling up until they are at a very safe altitude and then flying south until coming into our refuge and that is when you will see them whiffling quite a bit."

With all the liberal limits that we have seen given to hunters, they have learned how to stay safe it seems. By monitoring their migrations they can fly from refuge to refuge all the way to where they want to stay for the winter months.

The only time I have ever been lucky enough to shoot either lesser snows or Ross's geese, have been when we have some very strong northerly winds. They tend to fly on the deck where possible and at first they will fly the Rio Grande. It only takes being shot at a time or two and before you know it, I have witnessed them flying on the deck over our desert environment. The geese quickly learned that they don't get shot at when they do that. Another lesson learned well.

We happened to to see a high flying flock coming in from the north. They began to whiffle with heads straight out and proper but with bodies sometimes being upside down. I don't know but whenever I see this it sure seems like they are having fun doing this very unique maneuver. It is crazy looking to see a lesser snow with his neck twisted about 180 degrees and that contorted body then looks like the back half is upside down with the feet straight up into the air. With wings cupped they gyrate back and forth, then straightening out just before they touch down. For me the moment of truth is to be able to catch that with my camera. Most of the time I miss it.

We watched the large flock as they all settled into the pond and without fail they began to preen their feathers looking quite at ease. Before we knew it they all headed for us since we were on the leeward side of the wind. I found out that I had to take off my 100mm-400mm long lens and put on the landscape lens because they got so close to us. Sometimes within the flock on the water you will be able to observe a smaller segment of geese swimming in a pattern. They seem to make a humming sound of some sort. Tim had a smile on his face and then said, "Al, this is why I think that snow geese should be awarded the PhD. They never stop learning. Just look at them now, up on the ground sitting next to us. How is it that they know we won't hurt them?"
Al

Shot this lesser snow in 2012. Habi made a nice retrieve with this being her 1st goose. She was 9 1/2 months old at that time. For the hundreds of days I have hunted the Rio Grande I have only taken maybe 10 or 12 light geese. Bev and I have lived here almost 23 years now.




Subject Author Views Date
Thread The PhDs of the Waterfowl World Al Hansen 2191 Oct 11, 2019, 11:47 PM
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MLBob Furia 2132 Oct 12, 2019, 6:16 AM
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thomas wilkins 2091 Oct 12, 2019, 2:37 PM
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Al Hansen 2032 Oct 12, 2019, 9:32 PM
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RLLigman 1945 Oct 14, 2019, 6:51 AM
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Al Hansen 1919 Oct 14, 2019, 12:29 PM
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Mark W 1912 Oct 14, 2019, 1:06 PM
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Al Hansen 1709 Oct 16, 2019, 9:38 AM
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RLLigman 1858 Oct 15, 2019, 3:06 AM
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Al Hansen 1852 Oct 15, 2019, 4:09 AM
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RLLigman 1847 Oct 15, 2019, 5:20 AM
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Al Hansen 1835 Oct 15, 2019, 6:25 AM
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RLLigman 1829 Oct 15, 2019, 7:20 AM
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Brad Bortner 1809 Oct 15, 2019, 10:06 AM
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Al Hansen 419 Oct 16, 2019, 9:40 AM
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Al Hansen 1782 Oct 15, 2019, 1:50 PM
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TimJ 1752 Oct 15, 2019, 5:47 PM
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Al Hansen 419 Oct 16, 2019, 10:49 AM
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Dave Diefenderfer 1801 Oct 15, 2019, 11:35 AM
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todd tennyson 1798 Oct 15, 2019, 12:23 PM
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Al Hansen 419 Oct 16, 2019, 9:49 AM
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todd tennyson 1790 Oct 15, 2019, 1:16 PM
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Al Hansen 419 Oct 16, 2019, 9:45 AM
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Al Hansen 2031 Oct 12, 2019, 9:24 PM
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Vince Pagliaroli 2054 Oct 12, 2019, 6:44 PM
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Al Hansen 2029 Oct 12, 2019, 10:36 PM
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Steve Sanford 2023 Oct 13, 2019, 2:19 AM
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Al Hansen 1918 Oct 14, 2019, 12:26 PM
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Dani 1730 Oct 16, 2019, 5:59 AM
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Al Hansen 415 Oct 16, 2019, 11:52 AM
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Dani 406 Oct 16, 2019, 1:54 PM