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Snow geese population a problem for Skagit farmers

In late autumn on the cusp of cool winter days, snow comes early to Washington when thousands of aloft avians, snow geese, land here in a flurry of white feathers.

"We call it a snow storm, they just will move as one," said birder Julie Hagen. "It's just this chaotic whirlwind of birds, they move like a cloud and then they just lift up in the air."

In late October, as the snow geese began landing in the Skagit Valley, Hagen went out to enjoy the sight that many Western Washington birders look forward to each year. Lucky and patient observers might get to see the spectacle Hagen calls a snow storm, when the birds take off in a group. The individual birds become indistinguishable from each other within all those white feathers.

"The sight and the sound they make, the sound is incredible," Hagen said. "It's just a real, multi-sensory experience, I think, and I think that's what a lot of birders love to experience about the snow geese."

Beloved for their look and sound, the distinct white birds, with black tips on their wings, are lesser snow geese who overwinter here, coming from their summer home of Wrangel Island, a World Heritage site in Russia.

The thing is, there's a lot more of these birds landing and spending their winters here, lately. That's bringing about questions of how species interact with, impact and are impacted by the build environment.

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