It’s snowing geese!
In spring, Quebecers gaze skyward, watching for the geese to arrive. These migratory birds are easily recognizable thanks to their V-shaped flight formation and the din of their cries heralding the return of warmer weather.
In all, hundreds of thousands of geese touch down on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. There they enjoy a well-deserved break before resuming their journey to the Far North—an annual voyage of nearly 4,000 km (about 2,500 mi.)!
The snow goose’s three favourite staging areas
The snow goose can be observed in different regions of Québec from the end of March to the end of May. Its three favourite staging areas are Lac Saint-Pierre, Cap Tourmente and the Montmagny region.
Lac Saint-Pierre and its 103 islands—forming the St. Lawrence’s largest archipelago—are the first springtime staging area for snow geese. Designated a “biosphere reserve” by UNESCO in November 2000, this territory is still 90% wilderness and accounts for 40% of the St. Lawrence wetlands. Greater snow geese take sustenance from its rich marshes before continuing their long and perilous trip north. It’s also possible to observe these magnificent migratory birds on the south shore of Lac Saint-Pierre along highway 132, between Sorel and Nicolet, at the Centre d’interprétation de Baie-du-Febvre. The site is equipped with an observation tower and tunnel several metres in length.
Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is another preferred spot of the snow goose, not to mention a choice site for observing the bird. In fact, the goose stops over here in spring as well as fall (April-May and September-October). Each year, flocks of snow geese descend on the site’s fertile sandbars. Protected for the past 40 years, this natural environment is home to no fewer than 300 bird species, 45 mammal species and 700 plant species, and boasts an 18-km (11-mi.) network of hiking trails for visitors’ enjoyment.
Lastly, the Montmagny region, on the south shore east of Québec City, comes alive in the month of March and is the centre of a springtime celebration. With a population nearing one million geese, the colony takes a break on the shores of Montmagny and on the islands that form its archipelago. It’s a pristine setting from which we can gaze upon the spectacular natural performance put on by the snow goose.
In the spring, when colours are at their prettiest, nature walks are organized to the delight of ornithologists, birdwatchers and tourists. Large gatherings of snow geese can also be seen on the banks of the Rivière Richelieu, Lake Champlain, Lac Saint Jean and various spots along the St. Lawrence. It’s a truly awe-inspiring sight.