Spring has definitely arrived on the Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge and on the Long Beach Peninsula. Salmon berry is in bloom and the skunk cabbage is blooming everywhere. It is wearing its best Easter color: bright yellow!
The birds are singing almost everywhere now and Canada geese can be heard honking noisily as they make their way to their breeding grounds. They stop here for rest and tasty treats before continuing their journey. Some will stay and nest on the Refuge and elsewhere on the Peninsula. Soon we will see them with a string of babies in tow.
Canada geese are everywhere these days. In fact, they are so common, most of us forget that they nearly became obsolete. The Canadian Wildlife Federation reminds us that it wasn’t that “long ago that the Canada goose was very much at risk.” The CWF also pointed out this year how hard this fact is to believe, considering how plentiful they are now.
Even though the story of the Canada goose’s survival is tied to Canada. It seems as though the bird’s story of how it “made the leap from endangered to thriving” is worth telling here.
The Canada goose was one of the birds negatively impacted by Canadian settlement in the early 19th century. Settlers harvested thousands of them and their eggs. A man named Jack Miner was interested in conserving these beautiful birds. So he set out to work hard at ensuring they survive as a species. According to CWF, he banded over 40,000 Canada geese in order to shed light on their patterns of migration.
In 1908, one of the first bird sanctuaries of North America was founded in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. It now is known as the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Miner traveled across Canada to encourage Canadians to support the conservation movement and to save the Canada goose. His work led to reintroduction of a few birds in the early years of the last century to their southern range, an area from which they had virtually disappeared. This act was responsible for “helping boost their numbers greatly,” the CWF said earlier this year.
In the early 1970s, I collected records of nesting Canada geese for the one of Canada’s major museums in Toronto, Ontario. Naturalist clubs watched over some nests to protect them from the toughest predator of all. Man.
Over the last 60 years, the CWF reports that the bird’s numbers have grown eightfold, from approximately 1 million in the 1950s to about 8 million in North America today.
Modern agriculture has helped this bird along. Crops of corn and grass offer the fueling stations needed by Canada geese to continue on their migratory journeys. On the Pacific Northwest coast, the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge plays an important role. It provides resting spots in non-hunting areas for migrating geese and, of course, all other migratory waterfowl.
The “comeback kids,” as the CWF has dubbed them, would not have been able to make the leap from endangered to thriving if it had not been for the work of Jack Miner. Last week was National Wildlife Week in Canada. Miner’s birthday is celebrated on April 10th every year to honor his contributions to conservation.
Canada geese can be seen most everywhere on the Peninsula, but especially in non-hunting areas. Thus, besides seeing them in our wetlands, you may also see them in parks and on golf courses. Watch for these mighty birds. Their wingspan ranges from 3.5 feet to 5 feet and they can weigh up to nearly 10 pounds.
If you see a “V” formation of large birds honking their way high in the sky, you can bet that they will be Canadas!