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By Caroline Downs
Hunters here to celebrate Kenmare’s GooseFest week might have thought they hit the jackpot Saturday on U.S. Highway 52 north of Kenmare.
According to Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge manager Chad Zorn, a flock of snow geese was resting on the water at Lakeshore Crossing Saturday afternoon. “There were about a thousand snow geese sitting right by the highway,” he said. “The migration is starting, no doubt.”
The key word, however, is “starting,” with Zorn reporting fairly low numbers of birds after touring the refuge north to south on Monday.
“I saw groups of 50 to 60 to 80 mallards,” he said, “and pockets with 200 to 300 lesser Canada geese that had a sprinkling of whitefronts with them.”
As far as snow geese on the refuge itself, Zorn noticed only a couple of flocks with maybe 200 birds apiece, although he did see one larger flock of 6,000-8,000 birds feeding in a field at the north end of the refuge, across the east boundary.
“And at the south end of the refuge, there are good numbers of ducks, lesser Canada geese and swans,” he added.
Zorn described the presence of the swans and the sight of sandhill crane flocks flying south on Sunday as signs the fall migration has started. “It’s just early yet,” he said, “and tomorrow morning, it could change dramatically with the weather forecast we have this week. It’s going to be a day-to-day type of thing right now.”
According to Zorn, the Devils Lake area is reporting about 150,000 snow geese, along with high numbers of mallard ducks. “The way the weather is looking, by Saturday we could be loaded,” Zorn said. “Who knows?”
While the week’s high temperatures are forecast to drop into the 30s and upper 20s, lows in the 20s may not be enough to freeze the lake, Zorn said.
“Unless the wind gets really quiet, we should be all right,” he said, with highs next week predicted to reach the 40s again. “The way it’s looking right now, we should hold birds for the next two to three weeks.”
For updated information about waterfowl numbers on the Des Lacs Refuge, contact Zorn at 701-385-4046, ext. 225.