By Melody Hessing

Today an arctic front pierces Vancouver's winter gloom. Grabbing my binoculars, I jump in the car, heading south against lanes of lemming traffic, towards the Strait of Georgia. I tunnel under the Fraser River and into the lowlands of Delta, past the condos now sprouting Chung Chuck's old potato field. The car rattles across the one-lane creaky bridge to Westham Island.

Almost 80,000 lesser snow geese migrate south annually from their breeding grounds on Wrangel Island in Russia. They over-winter in the Fraser and Skagit deltas on fields and rich estuarine foreshore. Sometimes geese sprinkle the ground like popcorn—soil-smeared geese that grin with grassroots muck, dumpling-white geese with black tail feathers. Today the bare fields are brown, except for the random sprawl of pumpkins, like a gym after basketball practice.

The parking lot at the Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is almost empty this bright December day. Perhaps people don’t know about the geese. After all, it’s a weekday. Maybe they’re at work, or school. I pick my way through mallards gabbling for a handout of seed. Along the path to the dike, sun-bronzed ponds float puddle ducks—baldpate widgeons, gadwalls and the green sheen of more mallards. At the end of the trail, the dome of Mount Baker bulges silver-white in the pastel sun.


Lake publishes fiction, poetry, critical essays, interviews, reviews and visual arts related to the environment.
The magazine is issued twice a year.

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