Spring 2021 Migration Reports

Snows

"One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese cleaving the murk of the March thaw, is the spring." - Aldo Leopold


4/2/2021

This report is current as of April 2nd, 2021. 

The snow goose numbers on the Refuge have dropped significantly with only a few small groups being observed. These numbers are changing daily. Large flocks of snow geese have been observed in other parts of Brown County, McPherson County, and Edmunds County. Warming temperatures and strong south winds the next few days will likely push the geese further north. 

Duck numbers on the Refuge continue to be fair with most species now being observed. There continues to be good numbers of Bald Eagles using the area with multiple pairs nesting on the Refuge. 

The Auto Tour Route and Refuge roads are now open for the season, with the exception of a barricaded closure across the Houghton Dam Loop north of Hwy 10. 

This will be the last migration report for the spring season. 

 

3/24/2021

This report is current as of March 24th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers occur in the local area.

Sand Lake NWR is once again snow-free after several days of mostly mild, breezy, sunny weather. The lake is now 100% open water, and the extended forecast looks to bring much of the same mild, sunny weather to the area over the next 7-10 days. 

Many of the snow geese we were seeing on the Refuge last week have moved into North Dakota or dispersed into the surrounding area. There have been smaller flocks of snow geese spotted flying around the immediate Sand Lake area, and a group of approximately 15,000 snow geese was spotted using the Refuge around HQ today. Between the lack of snow cover across the Dakotas and southern Canada, and the mild weather predicted, we anticipate that the snow geese will continue pushing north out of the Refuge area during the next few days. 

Duck numbers seem to be remaining steady since our last migration update, and species currently on the Refuge include mallards, lesser scaup, green-winged teal, and gadwall. Good viewing areas for ducks are Hwy 10 and 117th Street where those roads intersect the Refuge. Those are also good areas to view Bald Eagles. 

The frost is still coming out of the Auto Tour Route and there are several soft spots yet in the gravel roads. We anticipate opening the Auto Tour Route soon, when the roads are safe for all vehicles. 

 

3/18/2021

The report is current as of March 18th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers occur in the local area. 

Canada and white-fronted goose numbers remain strong on the Refuge, while snow goose numbers have fluctuated each day this week. We started off with about 200,000 snow geese using the Refuge on Monday, but haven't seen that many using the Refuge since. The snow goose numbers on the Refuge this week have fluctuated each day from 25,000 to 100,000.

Duck numbers on the Refuge continue to be fairly low. There have been reports of large flocks of snow geese scattered throughout Brown and Spink counties. 

There is no snow in most of North Dakota, and with strong south winds and high temps predicted to be 50-60 degrees, we expect the snow geese to be moving into and out of the area within the next week. It's very possible that most of the snow goose migration through the area will occur within the next 5-7 days. 

With the recent precipitation, area gravel and minimum maintenance roads will be muddy and slick. The tour route on the Refuge is not currently open. It will re-open when the roads dry out and it is safe for all vehicles. 

 

3/15/2021

This report is current as of March 15th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers occur in the local area. 

The Sand Lake NWR area received a couple inches of snow Sunday night. The surrounding crop fields are mostly snow covered, but it will likely melt within the next couple days. The ice-covered lakes and marshes are slowly thawing. While it appears Canada and white-fronted goose numbers have slowly increased on the Refuge, snow geese have been on the rise since Saturday morning. There was 200,000+ snow geese using various parts of the Refuge over the weekend, including Monday morning. If you want to see snow geese on Sand Lake NWR, now is the time to visit. There is no snow in most of North Dakota and above freezing temps are expected all week, so we do not anticipate the snow geese to be using Sand Lake NWR for a long period of time this spring. "Here today, gone tomorrow" may very well be the case at any time this week. 

The current forecast is warming temperatures all week with highs in the upper 50s by Friday and into the weekend. 

With the recent precipitation, area gravel and minimum maintenance roads will be muddy and slick. The tour route on the Refuge is not currently open. The tour route will open when the roads dry out and it is safe for all vehicles. A few locations the snow geese can be observed from is Hwy 10, Brown County 16 and Refuge HQ area. 

   

3/12/2021

This report is current as of March 12th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers occur in the local area. 

The Sand Lake Refuge area received a few inches of snow early this week. Water that was opening has frozen again, and the surrounding crop fields are mostly snow covered. While it appears that Canada goose and White-fronted goose numbers have increased on the Refuge, snow goose numbers continue to be quite low. It also appears that duck numbers have increased slightly this week. 

Recent reports are that large snow goose numbers are still south of here. Large numbers have been reported along, but mostly south of, the US HWY 212 corridor. 

The current forecast is calling for chances of rain/snow Sunday-Tuesday next week, followed by highs in the low-40s for several days after that. Depending on how much and what kind of precipitation we get next week, the migration may slow down and/or stall.

 

3/10/2021

This report is current as of March 10th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers appear in the local area. 

The Sand Lake NWR area continues to be on the northern edge of the spring waterfowl migration. Dark geese and ducks can be seen in the area with a few smaller and scattered flocks of a few thousand snow geese. 

With little snow currently on the ground, reports are that snow geese are scattered across all of northeastern South Dakota

The current forecast is calling for 3-6" of snow on March 10th, followed by highs in the mid-40s for the next several days. We expect to see migration happening quickly in the next 5-10 days. 

 

3/4/2021

This report is current as of March 4th, and will be updated when substantial changes in bird numbers appear in the local area. 

It appears the Sand Lake Refuge and surrounding area is on the very northern edge of the spring waterfowl migration. A few dark geese and ducks can be seen in the area with a few smaller flocks of snow geese. Most of the snow geese migration in the James River Valley is south of the Refuge, notably in Spink County and south from there. 

There is no snow through much of Canada, so the migration is expected to be very quick this spring. 

Temperatures through the weekend will be 60-70 degrees. This means that the number of waterfowl using the Refuge will likely be changing daily. 

A new report will be posted after the weekend.