Come Fly with Me

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Note: As the seasons change, I notice Mother Nature more. This sight on my bus corner is my most recent “nature sighting.”

On the corner of Belmont  & City Line Avenues is a large reservoir that is home to many geese, to the dismay of many bus commuters. They honk and waddle, stick their beaks through the fence looking for food, and when they come to the other side of the fence, they leave their droppings on the grass. But I like the geese, especially when I see them with their babies, teaching them to swim and generally caring for them as good parents.

Recently, when I was at the bus stop very early in the morning, an unusually large number of geese gathered on both sections of the reservoir. (I think the geese actually believe it is a lake.) The sky was just waking up withonly a hint of pink from the sun.  As I waited for the bus, I watched the geese closely.  All of a sudden, without any cell phones, beepers, text messaging, or synchronized watches, one set of geese lifted off into the sky heading south for the winter. What was amazing is that all the geese in this front section lifted off at once, with apparently no communication that I could see or hear. They circled the reservoir, moved in formation, and flew quickly away.

Less than one minute later, the other group of geese in the back section of the “lake” also took off in a flurry of wings and honks. Again, there was no warning, just a lift off,as if each geese was wired and knew just when to leave for points south.

I decided to Google this phenomenon to see what I could find.  I did uncover some interesting facts. For example, they fly not only in a V formation, but also in a U or W formation, although the V seems to be the most popular, because in the V the birds can see one another to communicate. The updraft of this formation helps them save about 40% of the energy they need for liftoff, if they were flying solo.

While I also earned that the length of days, cooler weather, and a reduced amount of food sources are indicators that the time is ripe for heading south, I could find no reference to how they know the exact time for lift off that I witnessed on the reservoir. My suspicion is that they do communicate in a way that we do not recognize as communication.

There are still many mysteries surrounding migratory birds. While we humans may think we are the smartest of the animal species, what I saw take place on the reservoir makes me wonder.  The birds’ instincts seem to be stronger than ours, and their ability to communicate silently without any technological devices is certainly amazing!

Because I never lived so close to a body of water, this is the first time I have actually watched geese leave the water and fly in formation to their southern destination. I felt privileged to see this phenomenon without the need to buy a ticket to the event, without making an appointment with some bureaucrat to see the lift off, and without any fanfare for something that is considered commonplace.

For me, this was an exciting happening being so close to the take off.  As most of us go about our daily chores and activities, we become unconscious about the natural world around us.  We are so focused on getting to work, working, and getting home or somewhere else as soon as we are done work, that we miss some of the beauty of events right under our noses. OK, so geese are not always welcome in the neighborhood, but their ability to know just when to leave the Northern Hemisphere and head south is no small feat, especially when they have to travel thousands of miles.

Watching the geese get up and go made my morning memorable. Thus, I patiently await Spring and the return of the geese to their watery home on the corner of Belmont & City Avenue.  Watching Nature’s wonders in my own backyard fills me with delight!

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