Geese arrive earlier than expected in Fairbanks

Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Just one day after a dozen geese touched down in Delta Junction, six birds landed Wednesday at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks, surprising some locals who say they arrived sooner than expected.

In fact, the geese got there well ahead of Kiwanis Club members, who planned to spread tons of barley on the fields for them Thursday night.

The birds seemed content to waddle around the partially plowed field Wednesday, climbing an occasional snowbank and pecking at freeze-dried barley in the dirt.

The first geese of the season were reported in Delta Junction on Tuesday and it usually takes about a week for the birds to make it to Fairbanks.

The average arrival of the first geese in Fairbanks, according to records dating back to 1976, is April 14 and the earliest arrival is April 5. Last year, the first geese at Creamer's Field weren't spotted until April 18, thanks in large part to a mid-April snowstorm that delayed migration.

Vonnie Schilling was expecting the geese earlier than Wednesday. Schilling has spent her lunch hour parked at Creamer's Field for the last two weeks waiting for the yearly arrival. She was there when the black and white head of a goose appeared over a snowbank.

''When that one head popped up, I was so excited,'' Schilling told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''It's always springtime when they show up.''

It will be a while before large numbers of birds begin descending on Creamer's Field, said state biologist Jason Caikoski. He monitors the birds each spring and fall as part of a cooperative program with Fairbanks International Airport to attract birds to Creamer's Field so they won't pose a safety hazard to aircraft.

''I'd suspect it's going to be pretty slow for the next 10 days or two weeks, with a few showing up here and there,'' he said. ''By the end of April there should be several hundred.''

Ducks, sandhill cranes and trumpeter swans will begin arriving in mid-April, he said.

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