Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Painstaking Preparations Before Long-Distance Flight

Geese slowly organize and gather on Reservoir shortly before sunset on overcast evening.
Organization takes time -- notice the one goose facing wrong direction.
A family of five takes off.
Back and forth....back and forth....
Everything has to be just right.
Gander at top of photo was the lead bird. When he finally gave signal, they all took for the air.
And they're off -- heading north over the city.
Returning to breeding grounds in Canada and Sub-Arctic.
Bye, bye until next year.
The last pair to leave.
I knew when arriving to the Central Park Reservoir shortly before sunset last week, that the migratory Canada geese who had briefly stopped and rested for a day or two were preparing to take off and leave.

But I couldn't be sure exactly when or in what order.

Unlike many other migratory birds, Canada geese do not depart in one huge flock. Nor do they all leave with the exact same preparations. Smaller family groups will usually take off with little fanfare or indicators. Others (usually the larger gaggles consisting of 15 or more geese) appear to take much time, organization and deliberation before finally lifting off.

I particularly observed one large gaggle of 19 geese who, though appearing eager and ready to take off, traveled back and forth on the water for more than 45 minutes, apparently waiting for just the right moment, location, wind direction and sign from their alpha leader to finally head for the skies. (Yes, this particular group had a leader who swam a good 30 or 40 feet away from the rest and on whose "signal" and lead, finally took off.)

A heavy rainstorm was predicted for later that night and it seemed the geese wanted to get an early jump on the approaching storm by departing with the fading daylight.

Though there had been nearly 100 geese on the Reservoir the day before, by the time I left on Monday night, all but the four resident (and soon-to-be nesting) geese had left.

I felt lucky and blessed to have witnessed the painstaking preparations and calculations that migratory Canada geese actually take before embarking again on their long and arduous journeys to the far north of Canada and the Sub-Arctic.

It is a wonder to observe and experience. -- PCA


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