Snow goose season is kicking off with lack of snow cover and plenty of open water across a good portion of the country. Thanks to the crazy cold winter, the migration isn’t too far ahead of schedule. Many of them spent their winter so far south, they have plenty of ground to make up as they begin their trek back north.
A few geese are already in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri trailing on back into north central Illinois. South of there, good numbers can be found into southern Illinois and the Bootheel of Missouri and there has been some incredible shoots already in Arkansas with their early opener. The number of juvenile snow geese this year is nothing short of massive! In years past, the leading edge is 500,000+ geese, but with the harsh winter, there wasn’t as many this year when they first made their push through southern Illinois. Some have dispersed further east along the Indiana/Illinois border, but the lower leading edge numbers are more of a product of the winter. We’re probably going to see a good number of geese across a large area during this migration. Rather than a massive influx that gradually trails off as the migration progresses, this year might be setup as more of a good steady number of geese for a few weeks before gradually trailing of. That is, unless the weather throws a wrench in things!
The Week Ahead
In a winter of record cold that has continued the drought in many areas, it’s hard to think about snow. The saying goes, “drought feeds drought” and if that’s the case many areas across Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois might not see much in the way of snow as February progresses, but one has to think at some point it’s going to happen. The first wrinkle in the weather during this snow goose migration comes tonight. Single digits lows and sub freezing highs will blanket much of Illinois. In past experience, 5 degrees is a good breaking point where snow geese tend to head back south. With a forecast low of 3-7 degrees across central Illinois, we could see a small bump back south of birds into southern Illinois. Yes there are power plants and the river that will keep open water, but they won’t all head for there. With Saturday’s high being the only day they might get above freezing, many areas north of I70 will start to fight ice. Along with that ice is a couple shots as meaningful snow. The first is Saturday/Sunday with 2-4 inches of snow in areas north of I72 (Quincy to south of Champaign). A second storm with more potential could be in the cards Tuesday/Wednesday. This system could reinforce the snow line laid down over the week and extend it south near I70. With all this being said, it’s hard to not think about the overall winter pattern we’ve had of a lack of snowfall across Missouri and Illinois. Will it continue? Will the focus for the south shift south into Arkansas/Tennessee/Mississippi where snow has been falling this winter? Time will tell, but regardless of snow or not, the cold is coming and some of the leading edge of the snow goose migration is going to be heading back south in the next 5 days.