There’s a big flap going on in Cap-Tourmente National Wildlife Area, an hour’s drive east of Quebec City on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.
The 2,400 acre-wide wetland preserve is in the heart of the Atlantic Flyway and is a pit stop for up to 100,000 Snow Geese on their way to their Arctic nesting grounds near Baffin Island. They blanket the ground like a snowy white quilt and fill the air with the thrum of their wings and honking calls. They’re here to load up on carbs, specifically American Bulrush rhizomes, or roots, which they dig around for in the mud like little oil drills.
The most dense time to see the birds is from April 25 – May 20th and again from October 5 – 20th when they head back to their wintering grounds on the southeast coast of the United States. Plus, from October 6-9, there’s a Snow Good Festival.
Average flight speed? Around 65 km per hour, or 1,000 km a day. These geese make good time.
Cap Tourmente, named for its turbulent weather by explorer Samuel Champlain in 1608, is a birder’s paradise, with more than 300 species spotted (including golden eagles, peregrine falcons, yellow-bellied flycatchers and pileated woodpeckers) and a terrain of coastal and tidal marshes, plains and forests.
There are 20 km of hiking trails, boardwalks, a pond managed by Ducks Unlimited where waterfowl nest, an interpretive center and a small refreshment hut. In the winter, an old maple sugar shack on the property offers a toasty fire and hot chocolate.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your binoculars.