Over 200 arctic nesting snow geese are flocking to a pond of fresh water near I-71 and US 35 in Fayette County.
The snow geese visiting Fayette County are waterfowl that nest in the central and eastern arctic during the summer breeding season. While the birds do migrate south thousands of miles to overwinter in parts of Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mexico, it’s uncommon for the snow geese to stop through Ohio, according to the National Audobon Society.
The snow geese have been visiting the pond in Fayette County since late December when frigid arctic air moved into the region.
A majority of the pond’s surface water is frozen, with the exception of a small southwest corner, despite recent consecutive subzero temperatures in the region that have left many fresh water lakes across the state ice-covered.
The snow geese at the Fayette County pond are primarily white-colored; in flight, they appear to have black-tipped wings. But some snow geese are seen as having blue-gray feathers with white heads. The “blue goose,” as it is often called, is considered by the National Audubon Society to be genetic blue color morph in the species.
The Snow Goose migration paths are typical along the coastal ways and between the mid-plains region to Illinois as the birds head south, starting in the fall season after nesting is completed.
Some mid-continental snow geese are known to overwinter around Lake Erie, though in small numbers, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which says it’s rare to encounter snow geese even in northeastern Ohio. More than 20 percent of Lake Erie is now frozen, according to Wednesday’s report from the Lake Erie regional district of the US Coast Guard, and ice will continue to build up in Lake Erie into next week.
This could make it hard for any mid-continental snow geese overwintering near the lake to find adequate water and food.
A report in Cleveland Wednesday from WKYC explained the frozen lake is freezing some waterfowl, and about 12 frozen diving ducks have been rescued for rehabilitation with the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center.
The geese at the Fayette County pond were in the water, with some sitting and standing on the ice. None of the birds appeared to be frozen to the ice.
A 2017 population monitoring report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are some 7 million snow geese in the Arctic and North American region. The report states a 1 percent population decrease over 2016 population counts, but states’ migratory counts in Mexico haven’t been conducted since 2009.
When snow geese mate, they are thought to mate for life.
Snow geese will lay an average of three to five eggs during each breeding season after they turn 3-years-old, the National Audubon Society reports. The snow geese nest in large colonies, and build their nests in the ground with plant material and down feathers.
Like other geese, the snow geese feed primarily on plant material, but in the winter the geese will feed on grain left behind in agricultural fields. At the pond in Fayette County, corn kernels from the previous harvest could be seen scattered over the snow.
A website called eBird has become popular among bird enthusiasts, with people updating county-by-county information for rare bird sightings across the state.
The Snow Goose isn’t the first arctic bird to be reported this winter in Fayette County. Residents recorded a Snowy Owl visiting the county in December. Above average Snowy Owl sightings have been reported throughout much of Ohio so far this winter season, according to officials around the state.
Other geese reported to be seen in Fayette County and reported through the eBirds website include the Ross’s Goose and Cackling Goose. And, as always, the popular Canada Goose.
The pond in Fayette County is visible from the highway but is located on private property. There is no public access to the pond. The Record-Herald obtained permission from the land owner to access the pond.
Contact Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or connect on Twitter by searching Twitter.com for @ashbunton and sending a message.