NEWS - Snow geese sightings at Carlyle Lake, Illinois are always a treat for birders, especially because these birds are typically spotted in large masses! Local birder/photographer, Roger Hayes, was lucky enough to capture some stunning images of these charming birds on Friday, February 3, 2023.
It was a chilly day, with temperatures near 30 degrees when Roger made his way down to the shoreline near old South Shore Campground just northeast of Point 18. He managed to snap some great photos and video clips of the snow geese.
Three flocks were sighted all-in-all, the others located near Coles Creek and the Dam East Boat Ramp.
Snow Geese Flocking To Carlyle Lake, IL
As Roger shares, "Carlyle Lake is situated near the northeast corner of the winter range for snow geese and it's believed that over the past 20 years or so, these birds have adopted the lake as their winter home base.
In fact, a survey conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources around a decade ago found that 1.1 million snow geese were in the area."
So, it's not surprising that Roger was able to capture this raft of snow geese on his camera, but what makes his photos remarkable is the birds' close proximity to the shoreline, making for some stunning images.
Roger tells me he "digiscopes," meaning he takes photos with his cell phone through a spotting scope. It frees him from having to haul around a camera in addition to birding gear.
"That’s why one of the photos is circular," he explains, "I usually crop my photos, but that one seemed best uncropped."
Identifying The Snow Goose
These migratory birds are common in Illinois. Snow geese are petite, 25 to 38 inches long from bill to tail, with distinctive pink-colored bills and feet. During flight, you can observe black wingtips on mature geese.
Flocks can number in the thousands, generally found near lakes, marshes, and fields during migration. Birders can spot juveniles and adults congregating.
Notice the juvenile geese have dull coloring, greyish bills, feet, and feathers. Adults are snowy white.
Imagine what a raft of hundreds of snow geese might sound like! Listen here.
Sharing Sightings with Fellow Birders
Roger's photos quickly gained popularity on the Carlyle Lake Birding Group Facebook page, which he administers. This was possibly his most engaging post to date, being shared over 125 times and generating over 9,000 likes, clicks, etc., and still counting!
Roger is thrilled to see so many people taking an interest in his passion for bird-watching. His image of the snow goose raft certainly inspired many to comment on the event.
Several fellow birders noted the beauty that Roger had captured, commenting, "They are beautiful..." and, "WOW."
Others, potentially "newbie" birders were pleased to learn of the birds' identification saying, "I saw those and wondered what they were." No doubt, Roger's post will continue to encourage people to get outdoors to birdwatch!
The post also attracted birders from the nearby vicinity, who shared their own images of snow geese rafts, "...on Coffeen Lake," and also noted, "We have hundreds on Racoon Lake!" This chatter among enthusiasts can aid in tracking birds' numbers and migratory patterns.
Birdwatching: Roger's Lifelong Hobby Becomes A Fulfilling Career
Roger's passion for birds led him on a career path toward forestry. After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman, Roger completed a forestry degree. His subsequent job as a ranger for the US Corps of Army Engineers resulted in him working at Carlyle Lake (built and maintained by the US Corps of Army Engineers) for 14 years; so, he is very familiar with the territory!
Also an author, Roger has achieved the Distinguished Book Award from the Army Historical Foundation for On Point: A Rifleman's Year in the Boonies Vietnam 1967-1968. Published by Presidio Press in 2000, the book details Roger's own military experiences.
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