Geese flock to Fairbanks refuge

Posted: Friday, September 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- In a sure sign that winter is coming, Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is filled with thousands of Canada geese.

Biologists counted a record 4,040 Canada geese at Creamer's Field on Thursday, eclipsing the old record for a single day by nearly 800 birds.

Ten days ago, at the peak of the sandhill crane migration, biologists counted 2,770 sandhill cranes on the barley fields at the 200-acre refuge in Fairbanks. That smashed the old record of 2,117 cranes set last year.

''We're bursting at the seams over here,'' refuge manager John Wright said.

Most of the Canada geese at the refuge this week were stopping by on their way south from their nesting grounds in northwestern Alaska.

The big birds waddled around like kids on a playground during recess.

Some preened themselves with their beaks. Others pecked at grain that had been laid out, or at the green barley sprouts growing in the field.

A few bullies chased off other geese by charging them with their necks bent and wings flapping.

Some of the birds just lounged on the field, appearing to rest up for what will soon be a long flight south to Washington, Oregon and California.

The fall migration is right on schedule at Creamer's Field, Wright said. Last year, the high count of 3,280 Canada geese also was recorded on Sept. 5. Most of the geese and ducks will probably be gone within a week.

''The next day or two will probably be the peak,'' Wright said on Thursday. ''The number (of birds) really drops off between Sept. 12 and 14.''

Many of the sandhill cranes had already departed. Biologists counted only about 900 cranes on the fields Thursday.

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