The ballad of the lone goose


Have you ever watched Canadian geese flying around?

For the past few years, Terry and I have been treated to their presence more than ever. (Treated is a funny word in this case. Most people with any type of real experience around them will tell you two things: geese poop everywhere and they are mean.) Still, that flying-v overhead, especially when the numbers get larger, can be an attention-grabbing thing.

Often, the skies about us will be filled with geese. I mean, it is not unheard of to see, quite literally, thousands in a single moment. And the part that always strikes me is how groups seem to be headed in different directions.

I suppose that shouldn’t stun me. If I suggest migration patterns for birds… or even vacation to warmer climates for people… we don’t always arrive at a specific place. There’s no address to pop into a GPS or app that would guide the geese, or us, to Main Street of the Florida Keys.

But it’s more than that. I seem to notice them flying off in all the directions. North, south, east and west. Weren’t we taught cold weather arriving, birds go warmer? Shouldn’t that be south around here? These are all Canadian geese, what has some of them pointed toward Orlando while others seem intent on heading to Toronto?

Not sure.

What I do know is that every so often, the calls (or, more precisely, the honks) of one goose can be heard. And up in the sky, if you are so inclined as to look, you will see a single bird flying along. And the feeling, for me at least, is that this goose is trying to catch up with the others.

I can identify with that lone goose.

Every so often, I feel like I’m flying alone, honking away at nothing, trying to catch up with something unseen when in reality maybe I’m just chasing myself. (All while moving in what would appear to be the wrong direction.)

Perhaps that goose—and me—actually isn’t quite that lost after all.

There are lots of stories about geese and why they fly the way they do.

I’ve heard that often the wrong direction concept is a complete misunderstanding by those of us on the ground. For instance, the geese might not be moving some tremendous distance, and instead could simply be looking for food or water. What appears to us to be a gaggle of geese heading the wrong way could actually be the group headed to a corn field they know is off that way. Plus, depending on your specific location, the geese may not really migrate at all, meaning their flight is more of a slight movement and not some massive travel plans.

And that honking? Yes, obviously, communication. But more specifically, it is widely accepted as being a team building kind of exercise… the honking is, by this thinking, encouragement and cheerleading.

There’s more about geese.

That flying wedge? It’s efficient. The shape creates additional lift and support for the entire group, while requiring less energy. It also allows for better visual cues to be exchanged, as the geese can more readily sense the direction and movement of their group.

I’ve seen studies and reports that say geese will not leave members of their group behind. If one drops out, those results claim a few will stay behind to offer support and protection until the one that is tired, ill or injured can fly again.

Assemble all the pieces, and perhaps that lone goose isn’t really so lonely after all.


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