Emperor geese, and I use the plural form only because I have seen a grand total of 2 birds in 35 years in Oregon, have a special place in the hearts of my wife and myself. 22 Years ago when we began dating, our first big "weekend" together was a trip to the Oregon coast. It was November and we were walking the long and then relatively undeveloped Salishan Spit. In spite of being "smitten" with my walking partner, I still had half an eye peeled for waterfowl. We walked up on this lone goose that let us approach quite closely when I realized that, rather than being the assumed Canada goose, it was an Emperor goose, a species I had never seen outside of books. At that time I did not realize Emperors EVER came down this far from their home range in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
Without even binoculars, I was able to confirm it was an Emperor from the very distinctive white head and totally white tail when it flew. I later confirmed my identification and learned that a few birds may show up this far south every winter. Emperors are rare and quite limited in range in Alaska, so even most Alaskans have never seen one. I never, ever expected to see one in Oregon.
So my walking partner and I decided to take this sighting as an omen and get married! In the past decade as my photography and equipment has progressed, I have been waiting for a rare second chance to photograph an Emperor. It came today, 12-21-07. Last week an Emperor was reported at a reachable coast location, but a series of storms held me back 5 days. We had a single calm and relatively clear day wedged between awful coastal conditions. We made the 100 mile drive and checked out the geese in the pasture. No emperor. We visited nearby Winchester Bay and poked around the other sights, then returned to the goose site at noon before giving up. And there it was. Omens!
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