Since my husband had a cardiac arrest last September, and is still recovering, our day trips have been curtailed considerably, but last weekend we took a drive south to Delta, Colorado to visit the geese at Confluence Park. This is only a short drive from our home in Grand Junction, just under an hours’ drive. It was a lovely day with a gentle breeze and the temperature was about 50 degrees, so pleasant enough to walk around without a jacket.
This is the time of year when Snow Geese migrate northward through Colorado on their long trek to the arctic, which is their summer breeding grounds. I knew from previous years, that they stop over at Confluence Lake in Delta and I was hoping I might be able to get some good pictures of them. I wasn’t absolutely sure they would be there of course, it’s not like they send out an announcement or anything, but I figured it was a nice enough day for a drive whether they were there or not. It was just another excuse to get out of the house and feel the warm sunshine on our shoulders. I was delighted when we arrived though, to see that there were probably at least 100 snow geese present on the lake, and probably a couple hundred Canada geese as well.
We walked the short distance from the parking lot to the lake and I noticed that the geese were still pretty far away. I have a 400mm zoom lens, and even with it fully extended, I couldn’t get any real close-ups of the geese. Also, most of them appeared to be resting with their beaks tucked under their wings. They all seem to know instinctively where to position themselves on the lake so as to be as far away as possible from meddling humans walking the shoreline. They did seem to be slightly closer to the shore on the opposite side of the lake, so I decided to take a walk over that way while John waited for me on a park bench.
The lake was still partially covered with ice, and most of the geese were sleeping or standing on it with one leg tucked up so that it couldn’t be seen. I try to imagine myself sleeping that way, and I just can’t seem to get a feel for it, but it’s what they do. Looking at them all standing there on one leg reminded me of my days as a kid. Occasionally, I had reason to see duck and geese decoys, made for hunters. I didn’t know they were hunting decoys, I just thought they were pretty birds made of wood and painted. They looked totally life-like to me, except they weren’t alive, because they all stood around on one wooden peg leg. For some odd reason, I found this super irritating. I wanted a fake duck that looked like a real duck, not one standing on some fake wooden peg.
The first time I saw any kind of real bird standing around on only one leg, I thought perhaps it had been in some terrible accident and now had only one leg. Then, suddenly, I saw it put the other leg down, and boy was I surprised! This was a meadowlark that I saw standing on an electrical wire, where he had been sleeping with one leg up the whole time. So, it turns out that it’s natural for various different kinds of birds to stand around on one leg like this, especially when sleeping.
Long story short, I walked all the way around to the north side of the lake to get as close to the birds as possible, but even at that, they were quite a distance off. All the snow geese hung together as a flock, dozing on the ice and the Canada geese stayed with their own clan as well. It was an orderly enough crowd, but the din of the honking was constant, rising and falling in volume based on whatever drama they perceived was happening within the flocks, or communicating some outside threat. I wish I could understand what they were trying to say to one another with all that honking, but I was trying to be as quiet and stealthy as possible as I made my approach. I half expected the whole lot of them to suddenly take off as I had seen them do many times at the lake near my old home in Westminster. But no, they stayed put and tolerated my presence pretty well.
So here they all were, resting and saving up their energy for a very long trip from Colorado to the arctic circle. I have no idea how long they store up their energy for such a trip, but I know that one day soon, they will all stretch their wings out and fly northward. Whenever the snow geese are in the neighborhood, you know that spring can’t be far behind, because this is an early spring migration that they take. They’ll be back this way in September or October, with the new generation in tow.
I had someone ask me recently if I like to do wildlife photography. My answer is that I mostly like landscape photography, and I don’t usually go out specifically looking for wildlife. However, if there is wildlife present, I’ll point my lens in that direction. Since I used to live near a lake, it was easy for me to just step outside and see what ducks, geese, egrets, or cormorants might be found there. I didn’t have to look far. With the exception of snow geese and sandhill cranes though, I don’t usually go out to specifically look for birds or wildlife. The people who do, have specialty equipment including extremely long lenses, with which to shoot birds and other wildlife without bothering them or getting into their space too much.
I’ve been lucky to see many different kinds of wildlife since I’ve been practicing landscape and nature photography. It’s always a thrill to see a herd of antelope for instance, although I’ve had a few close calls when they’ve leapt out in front of my car. They’re very fast runners, and fortunately I didn’t hit them. Since I’ve been spending more time the last few years out where the deer and the antelope play, I’ve run across some wonderful opportunities to photograph wildlife, including bison, deer, elk, moose, fox, and even the occasional coyotes and bears. I’ve seen eagles swoop by holding fish in their talons, and I’ve watched hawks consume snakes – now there is something I can never unsee!
Everyone has their own reasons for picking up a camera though. For me, it’s my excuse to get outside and wander around, which is something I’ve always liked to do, even as a kid. The experience of walking around in nature, brings out my inner child. And it turns out you don’t have to go too far to have some really interesting and beautiful experiences. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t have anything that beautiful where they live, because they live in a crowded city somewhere. Well, guess what? I took a photo with my cell phone the other day of an oil slick I found in a Walmart parking lot after a rain. It was as beautiful as pictures I’ve seen of The Milky Way, or a gorgeous rainbow. Some photographers shake their heads and declare it impossible to get a decent photo with a cell phone, but I know it can be done because I’ve done it. If I didn’t tell people what it was, they’d never know, although I always recommend being honest and upfront about what you do.
All this to say, don’t let anything hold you back from your own experiences and joys with nature and photography, no matter what the cynical types try to tell you. Think outside the box and take in every bit of beauty this life has to offer, no matter where it is, or what equipment you’re using. Beauty can be found anywhere. Blessed is the person who finds it – or creates it – and shares it with the world.
Debby Powell is a writer and nature photographer who lives in beautiful western Colorado with her husband and two cats. To learn more about her photography and writing, please visit her Amazon author page at: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Debby-Powell/author/B0B8KY7J41?ref=ap_rdr&store_ref=ap_rdr&isDramIntegrated=true&shoppingPortalEnabled=true