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.
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
Freezeout2 – Images by Jason Savage
Made it back up to Freezeout Lake this morning for some frigid shooting! Lots of snow and wind before sunrise. Bird numbers have continued to drop since the middle of this last week, but there are still thousands of Snow Geese, last estimate was 20,000. Tons of Pintails, Mallards and Swans as well. I think this weekend will be the last good one. Beautiful day with passing snow flurries, bits of light here and there and crisp early spring air.
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.
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 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
Trees. Eastern, Washington
Wasn’t there some prediction from the Ground Hog here recently that we would be on our way to greener pastures? Hmm…In Montana we are now approaching that crazy time of year where winter seems like it’s never retreating and if you have some form of seasonal affective disorder, you start going a little nutty.
We had some well below zero temps this last week and what looks like some more snow in the future . Good news is in a few weeks some of that will be easing up and some more exciting things will be happening in the state that will take our minds off the endless winter and start to signal a change in the seasons.
The annual Snow Geese migration will be happening in a few weeks with hundreds of thousands of birds making their way north with a layover at Freezeout Lake in central Montana. Photographers and Birdwatchers are gearing up for this event and if you haven’t had a chance to check out the migration, you really should as it’s an awesome testament to the power of life and nature. Really an unforgettable experience to see that many birds together.
I plan on being up there for a few days, so should have some images to share here soon.
Currently I have been traveling on assignment for PBS in Wyoming and Washington State for a continuation of images for their upcoming series America Revealed. It looks to be an interesting series on the infrastructure of America hosted by Yul Kwon and should be out next year. You can find out more here.
Hopefully I will again be more diligent with some regular postings and have more images to share. Now let’s hope for some sunshine at least:)