Waterfowl say it’s spring as they head north

KANSAS CITY Mo -- A bonanza for wildlife watchers is at hand as hundreds of thousands of snow geese and other waterfowl are stopping at wetlands and lakes as they head north to summer breeding grounds.

“We’re right in the peak of the snow goose migration,” said Andy Raedeke, a waterfowl biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

Snow goose numbers at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge near Mound City increased from 173,000 on Feb. 21 to almost 800,000 on Feb. 28, according to the refuge’s weekly waterfowl counts.

Besides the refuge, migrating geese and ducks, shorebirds and songbirds can be seen at MDC conservation areas. The Cooley Lake Conservation Area in Clay County and the Little Bean Marsh Conservation Area in Platte County are within the Kansas City metro area. But wetlands in the rural areas of northwest and west central Missouri also attract migrants, such as the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area in Holt and Andrew counties, or the Four Rivers Conservation Area in Bates and Vernon counties.

Visit the mdc.mo.gov website for locations, directions and descriptions of conservation areas.

Geese are among the first birds to head north once the days lengthen and a warming period arrives, Raedeke said. Ducks, shorebirds and songbirds will follow with the peak times to see migrating wetland birds from now into April.

The snow geese usually head north during a February warm up, he said. But the snow and bitter cold that lingered this winter delayed the peak snow goose migration to early March. It’s warming up now though and waterfowl are on the move.

“Right now is a good time to watch spring migration,” Raedeke said. “Sometimes I like to go to the marsh and put out some decoys, because it’s just fun to watch the ducks.”