North America, Weather/Climate

Big birds hit the potato jackpot in Skagit Valley fields

Farmers’ loss is trumpeter swans’ and snow geese’s gain, as the migratory birds feast on spuds left in the ground, reports HeraldNet.

For the tens of thousands of swans and snow geese that migrate here, it has been a winter like no other. The birds can thank early rains in September for that.

Heavy rain fell before Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom county potato farmers could finish harvesting. It turned the fields into a muddy mess that would not support the heavy machinery needed to dig up the spuds. Many farmers had to write off up to $5,000 per acre, and total losses exceeded $1 million in Skagit County alone, said Don McMoran of the Washington State University Extension in Mount Vernon.

It may have been a hit for farmers, but it was a big win for trumpeter and tundra swans and snow geese.

The birds center on Fir Island in Skagit County, but also spend a lot of time in farm fields in the Snohomish and Stillaguamish river valleys. They eat grasses, including rye grass planted as a cover crop for them, but have become increasingly interested in potatoes and corn.

As anybody who drives past the potato fields on Fir Island south of Mount Vernon can see, the birds have taken advantage of this potato buffet.

From dawn until dusk, the voracious migrants bury their heads into the soft loam-mounded rows until they find a potato, which they break into edible bites with their powerful beaks. The grassy fields that were swarming with geese and swans in prior years are virtually empty this year.

Full article in HeraldNet
Photo: A trumpeter swan nibbles at a potato it dug out in a field (Andy Bronson/The Herald)

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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