The first large scale snow goose migration has taken place over the past 3 days, but looks to come to a screeching halt as the warmup subsides and winds turn out of the south over the weekend and into early next week. Snows have been confined to the southern states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and southern Kansas prior to this week, but south winds has pushed birds into Illinois, Missouri, northern Kansas, and even as far north as Nebraska. Look for this quick push north to slow in the next 7 days as winter returns over a large portion of the plains and midwest.
Temperatures warmed into the 50s, 60s, and 70s and the wind turned from the south starting on Monday and the snow geese responded by finally pushing into the southern half of Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. The snow line kept most geese at bay in Illinois, but rainfall this morning and temperatures approaching 70 degrees have made quick work of the snow cover. The oldest of the adult snow geese skipped the edge of the snow pack and ventured into central Illinois. Geese that came up the Missouri side of the Mississippi had a pretty much unobstructed path into the northern part of the state where they then turn west and head towards Squaw Creek. The first snow geese began arriving in NW Missouri yesterday and their numbers continued to grow overnight and this morning before the cold front moved through. Some geese have been spotted Springfield on up to the Illinois River in Illinois with more showing up today (Friday 2/20). The largest concentration noted in Illinois seems to be in the triangle of Pyramid State Park, Rend Lake, and Carlyle Lake. Up until today, these birds were sitting not far south of the edge of the snow pack. As the snow pack has moved north today, reports of migrating snow geese have come from north of these areas. Earlier in the week, the lack of open water due to ice was limiting roosting areas for the snow geese, but with all the snow melt and rainfall today, sheetwater is everywhere and snow geese have many options. Even lakes and ponds are beginning to open up. Smaller numbers of birds remain in Arkansas, but hunters are still reporting good success in certain locations.
Further west in the Central Flyway, most areas in Kansas and Nebraska have been void of snow cover. Snow geese have been waiting for the first true warmup and south winds to begin their trek north. They’ve made their move at the same time as geese in the Mississippi Flyway and currently large concentrations of geese are in Kansas with stragglers remaining in north Texas and Oklahoma. These geese could beat the Mississippi Flyway geese that bottle neck into Squaw Creek because they’ve had a head start in getting there and the forecast for the coming week isn’t as cold as further east across Missouri and Illinois. The area was snow free on up into South Dakota before a storm moved through this morning. What little snow that did fall in Nebraska and South Dakota should be gone tomorrow as highs are forecasted to be in the 40’s.
The wild weather this past week has left two major concentrations of geese: the birds in south central Illinois fighting the recceeding snow line and the snow geese headed north through Kansas. In normal years, these geese all converge around Squaw Creek at about the same time, but the weather this year could have them arriving at two different times. The geese coming out of Illinois and eastern Missouri will have no snow pack to fight after today, but the wind is forecasted to turn out of the west and eventually NW over the week and into next week. The Central Flyway geese have an unobstructed path as well and are closer to reaching the staging area of Northwest Missouri.
The Week Ahead
Decent weather will prevail to start the weekend, but a cold front will sweep the across the plains and midwest as we move toward next week. It’s effects will more felt the further east you go. Areas in eastern Missouri and Illinois will move from near 50 on Saturday to the mid 30’s on Sunday. As we move towards next week, lows could be back in the single digits and water could start to refreeze. After a strong west wind tomorrow, winds will turn out of the NW and likely prevent any large scale snow goose migration through the forecast period. Looking long range, there is a possibility of even colder weather moving in by next weekend with many places in the single digits and some even below zero. This weather will likely lock many snow geese in areas they’re located starting tomorrow.