Every spring hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese stopover at Montana’s Freezeout Lake and surrounding wetlands, creating an amazing display of birds against the Rocky Mountain Front. In little over a month we’ll be seeing scenes like this again.
Geese and Fog
You never know when an image is going to happen, that’s one of the great things I love about photography, the unexpected. Yesterday morning after dropping my son off at school I spotted some patchy fog nearby and decided to investigate. Turns out some geese were getting ready to head out against some great backlight. I usually try to travel with a body and 100-400mm on my seat, just for these sort of occasions and glad I had it with me this time!
American White Pelican
American White Pelican cruising over the Missouri River in central Montana.
Canon 7D 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS f6.7 1/3000 ISO400
Montana Spring Birds
It’s nice to see that spring has finally arrived! As on cue hundreds of yellow-headed blackbirds showed up last night near Helena, putting on an awesome show. It was great to finally see some color out there against our dull, brown, April landscapes we’ve had here in Montana. I’ll be out photographing sandhill cranes over the next couple weeks and hopefully I’ll have some more new Spring arrivals to share with you.
Canon 1DX 500mm f4L IS, 1.4X f6.7 1/1500 ISO6400
Be sure to be on the lookout for Tundra Swans! Many are arriving during this year’s spring migration in Montana.
Thousands of Snow Geese take flight this morning at Freezeout Lake near Fairfield, Montana. I really liked the sense of motion in this image. I took hundreds of shots early this morning of the geese rising up from the fields hoping to convey a sense of motion in all the chaos.
When panning with wildlife, birds can sometimes be a little trickier when trying to predict what the correct shutter speed should be to give it that right look and feel. With the birds erratic flight I will usually alternate between two or three different shutter speeds, usually one of them will work. For this image 1/20 of second seemed to be fine, but I still had to shoot multiple frames just to get one that would work. I also had my lens resting on a beanbag to help track and stabilize.
Canon 1DX 500mm f4L IS 2Xtc f38 1/20 ISO100
Montana Spring Bird Migration
Things here a starting to pick up with the spring bird migration in Montana. This week as of today there are 10,000 snow geese at Freezeout Lake and about 150 Swans. Around central Montana, ice is melting off quickly and much warmer temperatures this week. Mid 50’s, woo hoo!
Made it out a couple days ago around Helena to see what was happening and found a fair number of Pintails out and a few Swans. This next week should be really picking up and I suspect in the next couple weeks, hopefully Freezeout Lake should be prime for Snow Geese and Swans.
Montana Migration – Images by Jason Savage
Yikes! I Hadn’t realized how long it’s been since my last post. I better get on the ball here! This last month I have been running around trying to get whatever bit of winter photography I could in. It’s been a somewhat challenging year here in Montana as snowfall has been very sporadic, with some areas really not getting much of anything. While other isolated areas did OK. For landscape photography it’s certainly been a challenge.
Right now we are switching gears and this time of year can be a very frustrating one if you’re a landscape photographer. Winter has lost it’s chill but spring really hasn’t arrived so we’re kind of just hanging in this limbo until about the end of April. Fortunately for us photographers in Montana there is a bit of a reprieve and that is the annual spring bird migration that is currently underway in the state.
Over the last few year’s I have really delevoped a love for bird photography and the challenges it presents. And I certainly enjoy being out there, especially during this time of year.
These last couple of weeks I have had the pleasure of photographing Tundra and Trumpeter swans not too far from my home here in Helena. They are truly some beautiful birds and a very awesome one to photograph. In the next couple of weeks I will be traveling up to Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management area to photograph more of the migratory birds including the Snow Geese.
If you haven’t been to Freezout yet it’s definitely one of the best trips in early spring to take around the state. There is a hotline number 406-467-2626 that provides updates on the bird numbers, making planning your trip easier.
Hopefully I should have some more stuff to share in the next week or so. Enjoy!
More from Freezeout Lake
Freezeout Lake. Canon 7d, 500mm f4, 1.4tc
I was up at Freezeout Lake yesterday and boy how things have changed from a week ago! Last Sunday when I was there I think the count was around 5,000 swans and a few thousand snow geese. Well as of yesterday the snow geese numbers went from a few thousand to over a hundred thousand! Needless to say there were a ton of birds and even with a lot of ice on the water, there was still a fair amount of open water and spectacular bird viewing.
Yesterday’s weather improved and the afternoon brought passing clouds with plenty of sun. Today however,not as pleasant with rain and snow showers. I am taking a guess, but I would say that the peak of the season may be sometime this week, there is just an amazing amount of birds there and it should stay that way for a bit. So if you’re in the area and can swing it, I think this week would be the week to go. Hopefully weather will improve and give us some spring weather already!
A few birds at Freezeout Lake, Montana. Canon 7d, 500mm, 1.4tc
Fields near Freezeout Lake, Montana. Canon 7d, 500mm f4,1.4tc
Freezeout Lake update
Freezeout Lake 2011. Canon 7d, 500mm f4, 1.4tc
I drove up to Freezeout Lake yesterday morning to check the status of birds and weather and also to test out a new lens. Lots of snow on the ground and at least in the morning the roads were a little treacherous. Birds have been off to a slow start and on Sunday there were around 5,000 swans and a few thousand snow geese. Duck numbers were looking pretty good and quite a few Pintails flying around.
I checked the Freezeout Hotline this afternoon and they said snow geese numbers are now around 10,000. The spring migration is definitely behind this year and there is still a fair amount of ice on the water. Forecast for today and tomorrow doesn’t look the greatest with another winter storm dumping up to a foot in the valleys in places and a couple of feet in the mountains. They estimate bird numbers should be increasing by this next weekend and viewing opportunities will be better.
If you are planning on traveling to central Montana for the migration, Freezeout Lake has a hotline that updates the bird counts daily. 406-467-2646