Every year about 100,000 snow geese return to Wrangell Island off the north coast of far eastern Siberia to breed. In August, as soon as the young are ready to fly, the birds move to the mainland to fatten up along the coast. A few weeks later they depart and start heading southeast across the Bering Strait, Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and the Yukon River delta. They then cross the Alaska Range and follow the coast down until they reach the terminus of the Fraser River in late September or early October. About half of the flock stops only for a short while before resuming their journey to their final winter destination in northern California. But about 50,000 stay and feed along the mouth of the Fraser on saltwater segdes and grasses. By mid-December, they have depleted this resource and the birds take wing again to fly about seventy miles south to the the Skagit River in Washington State. The birds spend the nights on shallow Skagit Bay.
It is a spectacle to behold when at sunrise thousands of geese rise simultaneously off the saltwater to fly to the fields nearby for breakfast. In late February, they return to the Fraser for a few more weeks of feeding to gain weight for the long trek back to the Arctic. Finally, in April, after spring has arrived, they take off, wave after wave of the white travelers climbing high into sky before turning north and fading into the horizon.
Inside Passage: Chapter 1