Finley National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon: Feb 09, 2011
We eat lunch where we can watch an immature eagle perched high in a Douglas fir. A harrier hunts in the open field in front of us. Harriers are the figure skaters of the raptor world; peregrines are the speed skaters. The harrier flies low over the green meadow, swoops up and turns on a dime. Finally drops to the ground and appears to be feeding, perhaps on a vole. I’m a little surprised the eagle doesn’t help himself to the harrier’s dinner.
A flock of cacklers fly in and land behind the far rise in the field. While I’m drawing the geese are often quiet, then a few or even a few hundred rise up and mill about, calling. From where I sit I can’t see any unless they are in the air.
We move to a new spot. I have been busy drawing the gnarly tree when I hear something and look up, thinking a car is coming up the gravel road. No. It is the cacklers calling again. The far off sound quickly becomes the roar of hundreds, no thousands, of geese. Their calls meld into a continuous, sky-filling concert. String after string of geese are lifting up from grass fields hidden beyond the nearby ash forest that meanders with the river. Some settle back into the fields where they have been feeding. Others head to a nearby lake, open water where they will spend the night. Many of the flocks fly over me.