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Nature’s extravaganza in the sky

Thousands gather in Delta for the annual Snow Goose Festival.

Lynn Chamberlain has been a professional outdoor photographer for over 30 years. His photos frequently appear on the DWR website and in a variety of publications. He lives in southern Utah and is the Conservation Outreach manager for the DWR's Southern Region.

TWICE EACH YEAR, millions of lesser snow geese make the trip between Baja Mexico and the Arctic Circle. They gather in large flocks and travel the 6,000-mile distance in the spring to go the nesting grounds above the Arctic Circle, and again in the fall to spend winter in Mexico.

I remember a day over 20 years ago when I was standing in a snowstorm in Delta, Utah. On the shore of Gunnison Bend Reservoir, I was photographing more than 20,000 snow geese flying overhead. In vivid detail, I still recall the sight, sound and feeling as the beautiful white birds soared past and landed on the water before me. It’s difficult to describe the spectacle with words. Blue was barely visible as the sky filled with honking, fluttering geese, all looking for a place to land.  I was awestruck.

Thousands of lesser snow geese stop to rest in Delta, Utah during their northern migration.

I looked around, hoping someone else was seeing what I was seeing. There wasn’t another soul in sight—not even one other witness. At that particular moment, in that exact place, I was the only one there to experience nature’s magnificent display.

I was a little disappointed that photos were all I had to share this experience; it was so much more than just visual. You truly had to be there to understand the magnitude. You needed knowledge of where these geese had traveled from before they arrived. I was determined to somehow share the experience with others. Hopefully many others. Exactly one year later, I helped organize the first Snow Goose Day.

Now, decades later, Snow Goose Day has escalated into an annual, crowd-pleasing festival at Gunnison Bend Reservoir, hosted by the Delta Chamber of Commerce. Each February, as sure as the sun rises, thousands of spectators greet thousands of lesser snow geese during their migration.

Festival spectators gather for an up-close look at lesser snow geese.

This year’s festival will be held on February 24 and 25. Just like always, I’ll be there and my heart will be racing as the geese fly in. I love to see other people feeling that same wonder and amazement that I did on that snowy morning so long ago.

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