Wildlife Management Area
and the Champlain Valley of Vermont
When you have to resort to plan B-
I live in the northeast corner of Vermont, a place we affectionately call the Northeast Kingdom. For many years, I have wanted to go to the Dead Creek WMA to see the snow geese migration. These arctic tundra birds travel 5000 miles from their breeding grounds and, in good years, there can be 10,000 to 20,000 snow geese reported at Dead Creek. Here they land and rest up for the next part of their journey to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. When I was working (I have since retired), the two and one half hour drive seemed a long one for a weekend getaway. I would also need to procure a hotel/motel room for a night, so as to be at the refuge for the dawn eruption of geese. This is also peak foliage for the Champlain Valley area- the hotels/motels are usually booked well in advance.
So once I retired I put Dead Creek on my to-do list. I checked websites for the area and most reports said that a good time to visit was around mid-October. I planned my trip so that if the snow geese weren’t there, then, at least, I would have peak foliage for the Champlain Valley. It is always good to have a backup plan. I booked a motel room for mid-week, loaded my camera gear and headed out. We had had a spectacular fall foliage season in the Northeast Kingdom. Everyone was talking about it. In most years our foliage peaks a week or two ahead of the Champlain Valley. Just to make sure, I checked out a website called Vermont Fall Foliage Reports to make sure of my timing. But as luck would have it, the whole state of Vermont got a hard frost a day or two before my trip. Not good for peak foliage opportunities and the snow geese hadn’t shown up yet. Hmmm!
So, I thought, if nothing else I would use this time as a scouting trip. The Champlain Valley is a gorgeous valley of farm lands that stretch out on either side of Route 7 starting south of Burlington and rolling along to Middlebury and beyond. What makes the Champlain Valley so special is that the farmlands on the east of Route 7 lead your eye right to the Green Mountain range. The farmlands on the west side of Route 7 lead your eye down to Lake Champlain and then across the lake to the Adirondack Mountains. This area is part of Vermont’s bread belt and the farms seemed to stretch so flat and so far it reminded of Kansas, except, of course, for the lakes and the mountains. It is stunning scenery that I had only traveled through, but had never stopped to photograph.
I arrived at Dead Creek in mid-afternoon. Dead Creek is deceptively small for the stature it holds for being a stopover for snow geese, but it is a beautiful area nonetheless. The wildlife management team has set aside a viewing area with corn fields planted just for the migration and there is a road that runs along Dead Creek for driving and viewing. The only waterfowl I say were mallards; the only geese I heard were Canada geese overhead. Bummer!
Plan #B- Though the foliage had, indeed, been affected by the frost, there were still pockets of nice color around. So, I decided to drive the main and back roads scouting for photographic opportunities, if not for now, then for a future trip. I spotted an area with an old shed and views that lead down the fields toward Champlain and the Adirondacks. The colors were muted, but seemed to add to the old fashion feel of the image. Another image I captured as light was falling was one I had been hoping to find; a farm that showed its proximity to Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. A bonus for the image was the flock of birds taking off from the barn silo. I had not noticed the birds until post-processing.
So, in short, despite the setbacks it was a fun and productive trip and just reinforced my belief that you always have to keep your eyes open and look for possibilities, even where you think there might not be one.
Other images from the trip: