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      Nature Report: Miracle of Migration

      Winter waterfowl won't linger much longer in Deep South Texas before they begin winging it northward to their spring breeding grounds.

      As the days begin to lengthen, thousands of snow geese wintering in southernmost Texas will head north on a journey of some 5,000 miles to their arctic nesting sites.

      Geese and other migratory birds are able to achieve this miracle of migration thru a variety of senses including the ability to use a sun compass and by detecting magnetic fields.

      Over the span of many migrations, geese also form attachments to favorite wintering and breeding sites and have the ability to recognize different habitats and form mental maps.

      Since geese can live for 30 or 40 years and mate for life, it is likely that many of the waterfowl roosting here at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge have visited this lake many times before. The adults are passing on the knowledge to their offspring that there is safety here on this historic winter roost.

      While populations were in decline at the beginning of the 20th century, Lesser Snow Geese are more numerous than they have been since record keeping began. They now exceed five million birds, which is an increase of more than 300 percent since the early 1970's.

      Geese have benefited from agricultural practices such as increased rice farming. As more birds are able to sustain themselves on migration they return in greater numbers and are degrading their tundra breeding areas.

      While the population explosion is impacting habitat throughout much of their migratory range, there are relatively few birds that overwinter in Deep South Texas.

      So enjoy the call of the wild goose while it lasts, as soon they depart until the coming fall.