Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Geese Flew South Last Night

Something woke me in the dark of night last night. I didn't know if it was early or late. As I lay there I could hear the sound of geese flying over the house - very low - circling around and around. The sound would get louder as they circled near the house - and then a little fainter as they got further away. Then back over the house - they repeated this over and over - calling to each other - getting themselves organized. Soon it was a constant sound, the circle of geese so big now that there was no break in the circle.

There are ponds in our neighborhood - just a few houses away and past some trees. All spring and summer we've watched the Canada Geese as they hatched their babies and raised them.

There are dozens of goose families that live in the ponds, and they are fairly small ponds. There is a very large lake about 1/4 of a mile away and even more geese there.

Some years we've missed seeing the goslings - but this year we would turn down toward the ponds almost every time we came home - and I always had my camera ready.

The babies were so cute - scuttling about, always close to mama and papa goose. . .

They grow quickly - there is a lot to be accomplished in a gosling's life in a very short time . . .

Soon they are teenagers and ready to do a little exploring on their own . . .

But still stay close to their family . . .

All grown up - there must be over a hundred geese that live on these small ponds . . .

Lying in bed listening to the chatter of the Canada Geese circling around and around I thought of other geese in other places. Where ever we have lived, we've always had the geese nearby.

This is one of my favorite pictures of a goose - in a river in N. California - we would stay in a small cabin on the river and there were always geese there.

I loved the geese in the fields near our house in N. CA - they would fly in on cool mornings and spend the day eating and talking, then fly out in the evenings to the river.

Later in the season the parents will fly with the family over to a river or a bigger lake and begin to teach the youngsters to swim in formation - training for when they will fly south for the winter. One time in N. CA, Don came rushing into the house with news that the geese were on the river. We jumped in the car, with camera of course, and zipped to the river. There, below us, swimming under the bridge, were families of Canada Geese, all swimming in the familiar V formation - back and forth , up and down. This is good training for learning the messages and flight patterns that they will follow when migrating.

Before long last night, the sound of the geese overhead became more intense, the circle smaller and smaller and then I could tell that the geese were lifting higher into the air, still circling but their voices became fainter and fainter, until all I could hear was the familiar sound of a V of geese - flying off to the south. I listened until I could hear them no more.

I've been lucky enough to watch this kind of preparation for migration two other times. Once was in N. CA. I was sitting at my sewing machine - which overlooked a meadow in back of our house.

This is the meadow - with some blue jays at the feeder. After living in NW WA for almost 10 years I had forgotten how brown the fields get in CA before the rains come in the winter.

As I sat at my sewing machine I would often look out over the meadow - watching a big white horse that loved to graze on the hillside, or seeing a coyote dancing on his hind feet on the hillside. One day something caught my eye - a whirling sort of motion at the base of the hillside in the meadow, just to the right of those trees. I grabbed the binoculars and watched in amazement as hundreds of Goldfinches circled around and around, making ever smaller circles as they spun.

As I watched - the entire flock, consisting of hundreds and hundreds of the tiny birds, began to slowly move higher and higher in the sky until they were out of sight. I was stunned, watching the birds forming into their flock to fly south. They did it with seeming ease, as they circled about they never bumped into each other, each bird knowing just what to do.

The flock was too far away to get a good picture - even with the telephoto lens I had on my camera at that time, but the sight is etched forever in my mind, hundreds of birds preparing to make the long flight to their winter home.

Another event was at the North Fork of the Nooksack River here in Washington. The bald eagles gather there from December to February to feast on the fish in the river. We often take trips up there just to see the eagles - and of course we count all the eagles we spot on each trip. Sometimes there are a hundred, sometimes just a dozen or so.

One day in late February a few years ago we saw the eagles circling up over the fields across from the river. I began counting and lost track at about 200 - and when dizziness set in from watching them swirl and trying to count. They circled for about 20 minutes and then the entire flock drifted off to the north as they spread out to their nesting grounds.

In my excitement at seeing that many eagles in one spot I forgot about my camera and didn't start taking pictures until the eagles were almost too far away to get a good shot. They circled over the fields, and at the same time the cyclone of birds moved slowly away from us - still circling.

We watched until the last of the eagles were out of sight - a breathtaking day for sure.

Then last night I looked at the clock on the bed table. It was 12:05 - the geese had begun their cirlcing preparations at almost exactly midnight. It was a magical time. I'm so glad I sleep with window open, I might not have heard them if it was closed.


Happy Cottage Quilter said...

What a wonderful post. I've never seen this as we live in central Florida, and many of the birds do not make it this far south. I do start filling up the bird feeders, as there are birds that may pass through. One year we had a whole yard full of robins, but I've never seen them again.

Darlene said...

Wow, thank you so much for sharing a bit of Mother Nature. :-)

A Garden of Threads said...

Wonderful, I have seen the grackles leaving by the hundreds, but never eagles. Thank you for sharing. Take care and enjoy the weekend.

Pat said...

This was a fascinating post...thanks for taking the time to describe all of this for us. We have lots of geese that are here during various parts of the year (and snow geese are here in the winter) but I've never had the privilege of watching them swarm together into a flock and then go higher and higher and leave the area. That is really a special moment...and quite amazing, I'm sure.

GardenofDaisies said...

You have had some incredible bird opportunities! Seeing all those eagles must have been amazing!
I love all the pics of the sweet little goslings!

Crispy said...

Now that the harvest is all in, the fields around here are black with geese. They will hang out here until the snow flies and they can't see ground anymore. I love hearing them honk in the middle of the night when they finally head south.


Sunny said...

Great pictures, Jo. Love the geese. They come on our ponds sometimes but dont often get to see their babies.

How is your quilt for entry coming? I am excited about that for you!

Diane at Crafty Passions said...

I know when I see those huge v formations that cold weather followed by snow is just around the corner!
Wonderful post!

Fearless Nester said...

You have truly been blessed with witnessing such amazing sights Jo! I have never even seen a goose gosling grow into a "teen", how sweet they are as they grow. And to see that many eagles at once is something that would boggle my mind. Incredible! ~Lili

Deb Shucka said...

I love this post! All the movement and magic of it. I feel some of the same urge to migrate that birds do this time of year. The geese have been moving here, but won't leave for a while yet. Sure wish I could have seen the finches. Wow!

Bonnie said...

The geese haven't started leaving New York yet. As fun as they are to watch, their droppings are quite a nuisance.

Celestial Charms said...

I really enjoyed your post today. I love geese, and these photos are fantastic. Beautiful birds!