After making a few friends in Winnipeg I have been able to do some traditional activities in the city. Well, activities that tourists or short term visitors may participate it but not necessarily long term residents and lucky for me, my new friends are a mix of new and long-term Winnipegers. One of the newbies organized a trip to a 640-acre facility that specializes in outdoor recreation, environmental education and social events. The trifecta of a good time in my world: fun, learning and people!
From late September to mid-October Fort Whyte, a beautiful, flat, treed, natural area just south west of the city, hosts a large party each evening for several hundred guests. Of the 960,000 geese migrating away from Hudson's Bay to warmer climates, several hundred per night descend on the Fort to rest and recuperate on the large lakes. In the morning they are gone, on their way to their final destination in the south eastern United States; for fifty minutes or so, thirty minutes after sundown the air erupts with flapping, squawking, splashing and the general boisterous calls of 200 - 400 geese. Before the honoured guests arrive, we humans can meet for a 40 minute presentation by a Fort interpreter during which we learn about the different kinds of geese all over Canada, their varying migration patterns, the pair bonding of geese, the types of geese landing tonight (cackling or Canadian geese I think), and the characteristics that make each type of goose unique.
After the lecture, my group of friends set up our folding seats, I my tripod then camera and we waited. Flash photography was strictly forbidden as it disturbed the birds so I practiced shooting in several directions hoping a few geese would fly through the most picturesque view I could find.
As the sun lowered below the horizon, the dark black specks moving in the air slowly lowered closer to the reflective blue-black water. The air was invaded with a multitude of movement, noise, wind and excitement. What a show nature can perform when the right conditions are in synch! Wonderful that such a large facility is also so close to a city so that we urbanites can enjoy touching nature on occasion.
As you can see, my night photography needs some work but all those small black spots are not bugs but individual geese. This is as close as we could come to the lake and the comfort of the birds were the Fort's greatest priority. This even called for a lecture by one of the interpreters towards several people standing by me who took pictures with a flash. Bad humans!
Just in case you did not notice, those black, thin lines in the water just below the back tree line, are hundreds of congregated geese enjoying an evening rest. What a night!