Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The spring waterfowl migration was put on temporary hold this week as another arctic cold front swept across Northern Iowa. Yesterday’s weather added insult to injury as strong winds and whiteout snow squalls raged off and on throughout much of the day. Although such days are extremely tough on equipment, who could dream of staying indoors with such marvelous weather afoot?? You’d have to be nuts! The photo above helps capture a sense of the intense struggles encountered by migrating geese as they seesaw their way toward distant arctic nesting grounds.
A friend of mine once spent a couple of years living at the village of Pavugnatuk, located at the NE tip of Hudson Bay. He often traveled with parties of substance hunters and accompanied the Inuits on their annual spring goose hunts. He said the geese often arrive in the Far North when the landscape remains blanketed in snow and ice. When that happens, the snow geese, cacklers, and white-fronts are forced to just camp out atop snowdrifts; metabolizing fat reserves as they wait for better weather. On one occasion, the geese had to wait for eleven days until the first patches of tundra were exposed. My friend said that when the Crees and Inuits hunted geese, they hunted them hard. After a long winter of living on fish and canned goods, the hunters were more than ready for some fresh red meat! Nothing went to waste. The hunters utilized feathers, skins, and every ounce of meat the geese had to offer — including the soles of their feet which my friend described as being “somewhat gelatinous and very chewy”.
Born in North Central Iowa, Lowell Washburn has enjoyed a lifelong interest in the out of doors. He began photographing wild birds at age 10, and outdoor photography soon became his passion and eventually a career. Washburn is best known for images that portray migratory waterfowl and other wetland wildlife in their natural habitats. His best photographs are often obtained after spending hours floating amid natural marshlands, half submerged within the dark confines of a floating muskrat house blind.
Upon completing military service as a sergeant with the Fourth Infantry Division in the central highlands of South Vietnam, Washburn returned to Iowa in 1970. His wildlife photos began appearing in Iowa newspapers in 1971 and he began authoring outdoor news columns in 1978. Today, his photos and writing have appeared in over 50 national and international magazines including Outdoor Life, International Wildlife, Field&Stream, Ducks Unlimited, Pointing Dog Journal, the NAFA Journal, and others.
After working as a naturalist for Iowa’s county conservation board system, Washburn was recruited by the Department of Natural Resources in 1984. His primary duties included statewide communication with Iowa newspaper, television, and radio news agencies with a primary goal of increasing the level of public awareness and appreciation for Iowa's natural resources. During his tenure he also served as staff member for the Iowa Conservationist Magazine and for the DNR’s Iowa Outdoors Magazine. Washburn retired from the DNR in 2010.
In addition to wildlife photography, his ongoing outdoor passions include falconry, traditional bow hunting, waterfowling, spending time with hunting dogs of all types, and herpetology.