CO: Lamar hosts annual Goose Fest – February 23-26
LAMAR, Colo. – Each morning in southeast Colorado at this time
of year, tens of thousands of snow geese lift off local ponds and
reservoirs in a pre-dawn ritual. The swirl of flapping wings and
din of honking grows louder as the birds circle overhead and make
their way to nearby grain fields. The snow goose migration is one
of the grandest wildlife displays in the western United States and
one of the many attractions that bring bird lovers to the High
Plains Snow Goose Festival in Lamar.
“It still gives me goose bumps, pun intended, every time I see the
birds take flight at sunrise,” said festival organizer Linda Groat
of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The sights and sounds of thousands
of white geese with black wing tips is a truly amazing
This year’s festival, Feb. 23-26, marks the 10th anniversary of the
event that is cosponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the
City of Lamar.
Snow geese are considered the most abundant goose in the world.
Tens of thousands of the large, white birds move through eastern
Colorado during their spring migration. Besides the clamoring
flocks of snow geese, wildlife watchers can glass the landscape for
numerous other bird species, including many wintering bald eagles
and other raptors.
Festival-goers will have a wide variety of indoor and outdoor
activities to choose from, beginning with several special tours on
Feb. 24. Besides geese, other festival attractions include guided
nature walks, a craft fair, birds of prey demonstrations, lectures,
art workshop, hunting seminars, opportunities to explore the
region’s museums and historic sites and a banquet.
Participants who plan to attend the outdoor tours are urged to
dress in layers. The weather in southeastern Colorado is difficult
to predict at this time of year, so it is best to be prepared for
all kinds of conditions.
“We can have sunny days in the mid-60’s or wet weather with some
snow,” said John Koshak a watchable wildlife specialist for
Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “It’s best to be prepared for
everything. The temperatures can change dramatically on the sunrise
Koshak also suggest bringing a camera, binoculars and a bird
Participants can pre-register or see the complete schedule at
www.highplainssnowgoose.com. To inquire about festival activities,
Snow geese increasing in abundance
A few years ago, wildlife biologists estimated there were
approximately 6 million lesser snow geese in North America divided
into four distinct populations. Today that number is in question.
Researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environment
Canada believe their previous estimate was low.
Since 1999, liberal hunting regulations have encouraged hunters to
harvest as many snow geese as possible to reduce impacts to the
fragile arctic tundra where the birds spend the summer. A study
released in late 2011 indicates that hunter harvest has not been
successful in corralling the snow goose population, which continues
Writing in the journal Wildlife Monograph, a team of nine research
biologists concludes the abundance of midcontinent snow geese has
been seriously underestimated in the past, leading wildlife
managers to overestimate the ability of hunters to control or
reduce the population.
The lesser snow geese, the species that moves through eastern
Colorado, are part of the West Central Flyway population that
winter in southeastern Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, the Texas
panhandle and northern Mexico. In late spring, these birds form
enormous flocks before they head back to their summer nesting
grounds in the Canadian arctic.
Lesser snow geese come in two different color phases. In the white
phase, the geese are as white as snow except for the black wing
tips. In the second phase, called blue geese, the color is slate
gray with a white head. Both have a dark “grinning patch” on the
sides of their bill.
Mixed in the flocks of snow geese you may find some Ross’ geese,
which look similar but are two-thirds the size of snow geese and do
not have the grinning patch. Ross’ geese weigh about 4 pounds while
snow geese weigh about 6 pounds.
In their arctic breeding grounds, snow geese graze on grass and
sedges that grow on the tundra. While migrating through the
prairies of North America they feed on leftover grain in
The overcrowding and overgrazing of nesting areas has lead to the
spread of avian diseases and habitat destruction on their summer
Hunting snow geese
In an effort to manage the exploding population of snow geese,
federal and state wildlife agencies issued a conservation order in
1999 authorizing a special late light goose season.
Colorado hunting regulations allow for unlimited take of snow geese
east of I-25 from Feb. 13 thru April 30. The requirement to
purchase a federal waterfowl hunting stamp has been waived and
hunters are allowed to use unplugged shotguns and electronic
This year’s late light goose season starts Feb. 13.
Snow goose hunters may use “unplugged” shotguns – guns capable of
holding more than three shells – to aid in taking light geese
during the special conservation order season. Hunters are reminded
that unplugged shotguns are permitted during the Light Goose
Conservation Order season only and may not be used for any other
species or season dates.
Special conservation order hunting regulations remain in effect
until April 30. Hunters who choose to remove plugs from their
shotguns must replace them prior to next year’s fall hunting
Hunters interested in learning more, are invited to attend a
waterfowl-hunting seminar Sat., Feb. 25, 1 to 4 p.m. at the
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office at 2500 S. Main St. in Lamar.
For more information, call 719-336-6600.
For more information about the late light goose conservation season
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Thursday Feb. 23, 2012
4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – Registration/Hospitality Gathering
Pick up registration packets for the weekend’s activities at the
Shore Arts Center, 115 S. Main St., in downtown Lamar at the
official kick-off for the festival. Meet folks, ask questions,
enjoy hors d’oeuvres and the music of the local “Take Five” Jazz
Quintet and local artist’s creations. Shore Arts Center, 115 S.
Friday Feb. 24, 2012
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Amache, Sand Creek and More… Tour
Take a step back in time on this tour to visit sites of historical
significance. Discover the Amache, Relocation Camp, a Japanese
internment facility during World War II. Tour the Sand Creek
Massacre National Historic Site, location of the massacre of
hundreds of Cheyenne and Arapaho. Visit the Towner Bus Memorial,
Wildhorse Creek School and Speer Prairie Ranch, Trail City and
Holly. Buy your own lunch in Holly. We will provide the bus, snacks
and tour guide. The bus and outdoor tour costs $25 per person. Meet
At Lamar High School, 1900 S. 11th St., Lamar.
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – South Canyon Tour
Enjoy a day full of history, scenery and birding in the grasslands
and canyon country in the southeast corner of Colorado. Visit
Picture Canyon and Carrizo Canyon in the Comanche National
Grasslands. See petrolgyphs on the canyon walls. Hear stories of
more recent human settlement in the area. We will provide the bus,
box lunch, snacks and tour guide. The bus and outdoor tour costs
$25 per person. Meet At Lamar High School.
1 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Two Buttes Birding Tour
What a gem, a hidden canyon in the rolling plains of SE Colorado.
Two Buttes Reservoir State Wildlife Area, also known as “The Black
Hole” is an oasis, and a must-see when birding this corner of the
state, especially during spring migration. Ted Floyd, from American
Birding Association will guide this trip. Will include some easy
walking to explore the area. Travel by bus, cost $ 15. Meet At
4 to 8 p.m. – -Registration/Hospitality Gathering
Meet folks, ask questions, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and listen to the
musical talents of the “Take Five” Jazz Quintet. Shore Arts Center,
115 S. Main St.
8 to 9 p.m. – Mastodons in Snowmass? – NEW
On Oct. 14, 2010, a bulldozer operator uncovered a partial mammoth
skeleton in the Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado.
Within two weeks, it was clear that the site also contained the
bones of mastodon and other ice age mammals. The Denver Museum of
Nature & Science responded by launching one of the largest
fossil digs in the state’s history, deploying 178 diggers and
assembling a team of 38 scientists to analyze the results. The
excavation revealed an amazing series of high-elevation ice age
ecosystems and yielded more than 5,000 bones from over 40 species
of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds. Dr. Ian Miller will
tell this fascinating story. This program is free and open to the
public. Lamar High School Auditorium, 1900 S. 11th St.,
Saturday Feb. 25, 2012
All day Saturday in the Lamar High School Gym – Nature Arts and
Come see artisans displaying their creations, including artworks,
photography and crafts. Check out the Silent Auction – place your
bids before the banquet. Visit with staff at the informational
booths from Comanche National Grasslands, National Park Service,
John Martin Reservoir, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Pueblo Raptor
Center, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, and more.
Located in the Lamar High School Gym on Saturday.
Birds of Prey – Up Close
Visit the Pueblo Raptor Center booth to see some of their live
hawks, eagles or owls up close – all day Saturday in the Lamar High
School Gym. Indoors.
Visit the Kids’ Zone for hands-on fun activities for kids of all
ages. All day Saturday in the Lamar High School Gym. Indoors.
7:30 a.m. to noon – John Martin History Tour – NEW
Tour sites of interest in Bent County beginning with the Star
School, a one-room schoolhouse, followed by Bent’s New Fort, the
sequel to Bent’s Old Fort NHS. Visit John Martin Reservoir to learn
about the dinosaurs that roamed there. Finally, visit Yoga at the
Ranch, a unique blend of art, history and modern day. Travel by
bus, cost $15. Meet At Lamar High School.
8 a.m. to noon – Breakfast and Raptor Tour with Ted Floyd
Join this limited tour with Ted Floyd from the American Birding
Association. Enjoy a wonderful breakfast at Chez DuVall’s
Restaurant in Granada before touring the grasslands in an area
known for several species of raptors and then, the bottomlands of
the Arkansas River for ducks and passerines. Bus and breakfast is
included in the $50 cost per person. Indoors and outdoors, minimal
walking. Meet the bus for this limited tour at Lamar High
8 a.m. to 9 a.m. – Morning Bird Walk
Enjoy a morning walk through Lamar Community College Woods, one of
the sites on the Colorado Birding Trail. Seth Gallagher from Rocky
Mountain Bird Observatory will lead and provide assistance in
locating and identifying winter birds. Meet at north Trailhead,
outdoors behind Lamar Community College, 2401 S. Main St.,
9 a.m. – Discoveries from Bird Banding – NEW
How far do birds migrate? Where do they go? How long do they live?
Kacie Ehrenberger from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory will
tell of the many amazing things we have learned from bird banding.
It is the process of capturing, banding and releasing birds, and
collecting lots of data that tells who, when and where of migratory
birds. Indoors at Lamar High School Auditorium.
10 a.m. – Wild Turkeys in Colorado – NEW
Wild turkeys are a favorite to many; they played an important role
to native people throughout history and still are a prominent sight
on our landscape today. Learn about the history of wild turkey
management in Colorado from Colorado Parks and Wildlife Biologist
Jonathan Reitz. Indoors at Lamar High School classroom.
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. – HAYRIDE
Bring the kids and enjoy a short hayride with your family and
friends… FREE, weather permitting. Leaving every 20 or 30 minutes
from in front of Lamar High School.
11 a.m. – Birds of Prey – LIVE.
Hawks, eagles and owls are birds of prey – big predators in the
bird world. See live birds from the Pueblo Raptor Center. Diana
Miller will tell of their efforts to rehabilitate injured and
orphaned raptors. Indoors at Lamar High School Auditorium.
Noon – Bird ID Basics – NEW
Just getting started in birding, or overwhelmed by finding your
feathered guest in your field guide? John Koshak has some tips for
you to start to make some sense out of the birds that fly by.
Indoors at Lamar High School classroom.
Noon – Black-footed Ferrets – an Endangered Species – LIVE. –
See a live ferret and hear about their key role in prairie
ecosystems. Visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo booth between noon and
1 p.m., which will then be followed by a program at 1 p.m. to hear
about the struggle of this rare mammal and the captive breeding
effort that saved them from extinction. Indoors in the Lamar High
1 p.m. – Wild about BFF’s… Black-footed Ferrets. – NEW
Black-footed Ferrets were thought to be extinct until a small
population was discovered in 1981 in Wyoming. Since then wildlife
agencies and partners have made great progress in captive breeding
and reintroducing them into the wild. Hear their story from the
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff that run a breeding facility and will
bring a live ferret along as their ambassador. Indoors at Lamar
High School Auditorium.
1 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Waterfowl Hunting Seminar
Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager Rick Gardner
will present information about hunting waterfowl on the eastern
plains of Colorado. Topics will range from the basics for
beginners, to tips and techniques for the seasoned hunter. Indoors
at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife classroom.
1 p.m. – Colorado’s Wonderful Wildlife
A photographic exploration of the amazing wildlife found in
Colorado by photographer Ron Drummond. Indoors at Lamar High School
2 p.m. – Bent’s New Fort
Did you know that the Bent brothers built a NEW fort after the
abandonment of Bent’s Old Fort in 1849 just a few miles down the
Arkansas River? Hear the story of this lesser-known adventure from
National Park Staff about trading with the plains Indians and
trappers. Indoors at Lamar High School Auditorium.
2 p.m. – Falconry Demonstration
The Art of Falconry – hunting with real birds of prey. A live
demonstration with presenters Cathy and Bob Tintinger. Travel just
south of town, outdoors, minimal walking. Meet bus at Lamar High
School. Outdoors, weather permitting.
3 p.m. – Wildlife Photography
Join Steve Goodman to learn more about wildlife photography, tips,
tricks and how to get that great photo with moving subjects in
changing conditions. Steve has travelled far and wide and has
amazing photos and experiences to share. Indoors at Lamar High
3:30 p.m. – Bird Walk in LCC Woods
Guided stroll through the riparian area behind the college to look
for winter birds before they settle in for the night. Meet at north
Trailhead, outdoors behind Lamar Community College, 2401 S. Main
3:30 to 6:30 p.m. – John Martin Sunset Tour – NEW
John Martin Reservoir and surrounding habitat brings in many birds
and other wildlife. Winters with open water can attract bald
eagles, snow geese, waterfowl as well as resident deer, bobcat and
coyote. Join this guided tour to see winter residents, watch the
sunset and flocks of snow geese coming to roost on the water. Bus
and outdoor tour, cost $10 per person. Meet At Lamar High
4 p.m. – Southeast Colorado Heritage and the Santa Fe Trail –
Discover the rich history of this area – Native Americans,
pioneers, bison, fur traders, explorers, wagon trains, settlers and
much more. Indoors at Lamar High School classroom.
7 p.m. – Evening Banquet – Social hour begins at 6:30
Join us for a delicious banquet, must pre-register. Festival Grand
Prizes will be awarded here, must be present to win. Adults $ 20,
Children 6-12 yrs $10. At the Elks Lodge, 28157 US Hwy 287, Lamar,
two miles south of the stoplight at Savage Ave. and Main St.
8 p.m. – The Ten Greatest Places on Earth – NEW
Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding, the flagship publication of the
American Birding Association. He is also the author of three bird
books, and he has published more than 100 articles on birds and
other aspects of nature. Ted is a frequent guest at bird festivals
and other birding events, both in his home state of Colorado and
across the globe. He has served on the boards of several nonprofit
organizations, including Colorado Field Ornithologists. Ted is
interested in anything to do with birds and birding, especially
these topics: nocturnal flight calls, molt migration, “green”
birding, the sociology of birding, and, most of all, birding with
children. Ted Floyd’s banquet presentation will be titled “The 10
Greatest Places on Earth.” Some of these places you will have heard
of. Some of them you probably will not have. In any event, Ted’s
special perspective on these 10 great places will surely surprise
you. At the Elks Lodge, 28157 US Hwy 287, Lamar, two miles south of
the stoplight at Savage Ave. and Main St.
Sunday Feb. 26, 2012
5:15 to 10:30 a.m. – Sunrise Tour
Watch the snow geese wake up and fly off to their feeding grounds.
Tour State Wildlife Areas and farm fields to see a variety of
waterfowl and other cool birds including bald eagles, sandhill
cranes, ducks and shorebirds. Warm up with a hearty breakfast and
good company indoors at the Eads Community Center before the trip
back to Lamar. The $15 cost per adult includes breakfast. Children
under the age of six are free. Outdoor tour by bus, meet at the
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Office, 2500 S. Main St., Lamar.