Pin colours explained in the bold text below.
Over the past few days, my son and I have been visiting schoolyards throughout Richmond BC, determining how many have been grazed by snow geese this winter, and to what extent. Richmond is conveniently pre-planned for such a study, a pancake of land with a grid-pattern of major roads spaced a quarter-mile apart, which I enjoy (the city pre-dates Canada's adoption of the dull oppressiveness of the metric system). Within almost every quarter-mile square there is a green space containing a schoolyard, almost always surrounded by continua of cedar fences that mark the backyards of houses. It would be difficult to design a more snow goose behaviour study-friendly urban landscape.
We were wondering which schoolyards the geese prefer, and why. Are they the ones closest to the western foreshore, the historical foraging habitat, or the largest, most humongous flock-accommodating ones, or the wettest ones, or the something-elsiest ones?
Well, the more schoolyards we have checked, the more it seems that they like all of them, but they do a lot more damage to some than to others for reasons not very well understood.
On the map above, a white pin indicates that snow geese have visited and left signs of their presence at a given school. Signs of presence include droppings, slightly disturbed turf, moderately disturbed turf, or really, really disturbed turf. Blue pins indicate no discernible sign of goose presence. Pink pins are schoolyards that have not been inspected.
Short account of results: They really aren't picky. Large or small, any schoolyard on the west side of the city has been pillaged to some extent. During November-February, flocks of geese have wandered all over the western island, feasting on schoolyards.
If you are wondering where Richmond is, it is (in part) the lime-green blob in the above image. Vancouver is to the north, and Delta BC is to the south. The yellow horizontal line near the bottom of the image is the Canada-US border.
Here's an example of lightly-moderately disturbed turf (McKay Elementary School).
This is, so far, the most damaged schoolyard observed (Walter Lee Elementary). This seems odd, because it is four miles inland, and the nearest school, 400 metres away, is untouched.
Oh, in a recent post, I mused that the geese might have had headed south to Washington State, were no longer around. It is safe to say, "WRONG!" Here's a gang of about 2,000 on February 12, ravaging the field at McKinney Elementary.
Update: Here is a more detailed report of the activities of snow geese in Richmond, 2012.