Posts Tagged ‘migration’

Canada geese may be just barely visible beneath a cover of marsh mist but their morning talk is unmistakable.  Their communication is not just limited to their signature honk but to a medley of sounds as they wake to another day in another marsh.

According to Ducks Unlimited, Canada geese may be only next to humans in their talkativeness.  Greetings, warnings and contentment are all communicated from the time a gosling is still in its shell.

However, as there are some humans who like to talk more than others, there are probably some geese who are also more talkative than the rest.  I wonder if some geese put their heads underwater to get away from the nagging chatter under the pretext of finding food.

geese talking

Don't even think of flying next to her today!

Considering the amount of effort that goes into planning a trip abroad for a large group, it’s probably the communication skills of geese that allow them to be so successful in their migrations year after year. 

Geese are known to share the responsibilities of leadership, especially in flight.  Also, if a member of the flock is injured, two will stay behind to nurse it back to health, rejoining the larger flock together after it recovers.  Any of these actions would require a great deal of planning and discussion.  No wonder they’re so talkative!

Once the geese have breakfast, make their flight plans and leave, quiet returns to the marsh until the next flock arrives to spend the evening.  

For more information about these beautiful and talkative birds, see Facts on Canada Geese at Ducks Unlimited.


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This weekend’s venue for the Fall Marsh Conference was the beautiful salt marsh in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.  The location was ideal, as northern delegates such as the Canada geese were able to stop over to attend the events during their migration south.

This year’s conference theme was The Tides of Change which gave all attendees opportunities to discuss strategies for the future while sharing lessons learned.   A panel presentation facilitated by Dr. Bob Cat, entitled The Coyote Bounty:  What it Means for the Rest of Us drew standing room only crowds, especially from the rodent delegation.

Four workshops were also well attended:  Innovative Uses for Discarded Tim Horton’s Coffee Cups, Coping with Off-leash Dogs, Managing Expectations for Migration Destinations after the Gulf Oil Spill  and Winter Storm Survival Techniques.  Once again this year, the sessions were coordinated by the great blue herons.

A gala evening on Saturday featured music by the Sandpipers.   Though the main vegetarian course was delectable, many of the attendees chose to find alternate fare off-site at the Roadkill Café on Bissett Road.

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. B. Eagle who provided some keen insights into life at the top of the food chain.  It should be noted that conference organizers greatly appreciated his willingness to refrain from eating any of the delegates until after closing ceremonies.

Thanks to all who worked diligently behind the scenes to make the conference a success!  We hope to see all delegates again next year.

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The sun is rising.  Quick!  Come down to the sea to witness the dawn of day.  Birds are already calling out to one another and singing their wake-up songs.

A male pheasant crows from beyond the alder bushes.  Sparrows are already in flight across the path to the shore.

The view of the sky and ocean open up just beyond the spruce trees.  It’s not far now to the rocks and stones below.

From the shore, the view is clear across the water.  The sun is being coy and staying out of sight behind the clouds.  The tide is neither high nor low, half revealing the wave smoothed rock where mermaids arrange their hair in warmer weather.

Waves pound the beach as the sky begins to darken.  Rain is on its way.  The sunrise show is coming to an end.

There’s time for just one last glance at the dawn from behind the mermaid rock.  The mermaids will soon be migrating back to our northern waters for the summer months.  Perhaps we’ll spot one this year as she sits on the rock, looking out to sea at dawn.  You never know what you’ll find along Nova Scotia’s Atlantic shore.

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There’s no stop these days to sights of geese flying south.  I continue to see flocks heading out in the morning, but today’s numbers baffled the mind.  Where are all these birds coming from?  Who would have thoughts there were so many Canada geese living north of here.

Some appear to be flying in V-like formations but most seem to be in strands that look like ribbons of smoke at a distance.

Wherever they are headed, in such large numbers they are bound to have an effect on the locations where they rest for the night.  How do so many large birds find food in one spot?  Seeing so many this morning, I could only stand in awe of their numbers and wonder. 

As numerous as they are, their existence, like everything else on the planet, is fragile.  In the 1500s, Canadian explorer Jacques Cartier noted that the flocks of passenger pigeons he saw flying overhead blackened the sky.  They’re now extinct.

There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds… There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and  spring after the winter.

~ Rachel Carson

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sunrise november 9

The sun is just rising along the Salt Marsh Trail when the sound of geese begins to float in from the north.  They are waking up just beyond the island and preparing for flight.

geese arriving 2

Moments later, their distant honking turns into a loud roar.  What are they calling out to each other as they head out to sea?

geese overhead

Their numbers are in the thousands and it’s impossible to photograph them all in the sky.  To see so many geese flying directly overhead at dawn is an awesome experience.  The rays of dawn light up their feathers, revealing the beauty of their markings.

geese overhead 2

Their formations are like ribbons in the sky as they begin to organize themselves for their long journey south.

geese at sunrise

Within a couple of minutes, the event is over as they head out beyond the marsh to the Atlantic.  The sun is still rising beyond the horizon.

lone gooseForty minutes later, a lone goose can be heard flying around the marsh.  Its calls are distinct and clearly those of a Canada goose.  How did it possibly miss the wake up call? 

Its unanswered calls sound lonely and frantic.  Geese are known for their manner of leaving no goose behind.  How could this have happened?  Hopefully there will be more geese passing through here this week and this lone goose will be able to join the rest of its kind in their long journey south.


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geese between the lines

It’s never easy to stay in line or keep it between the lines. Those who look on from the sidelines might take for granted the effort that’s required. Things done well often look like they come naturally to the doer. Yet this is seldom so.

In his book Outliers about super achievers, Malcolm Gladwell notes that success in our endeavours depends more on effort and practice than natural ability, intelligence or education.  He strongly advocates the need for 10,000 hours of practice at any skill in order to master it.

geese in flight

There’s no denying the amount of work required to flap your wings from Canada to the warmer places south of the border.  Some days must be easier than others.  Weather is seldom perfect.  Yet despite all the hard work, geese may know something we humans don’t yet realize about achieving our goals. 


Geese take turns at the lead. Depending on who’s strongest on a given day, the leader facing the most powerful winds may be one goose one day and another the next.  If one goose falls ill or is injured, a couple stay back to care for it until they can all continue their journey together.  The code geese live by ensures that getting everyone in the air and on their way will always take priority over any goose getting to the destination first.

Gladwell also noticed that super achievers had a remarkable amount of support from others in their journey to success.  Sharing strengths with others and daily support and encouragement from family and friends is crucial in order for all of us to achieve our goals and dreams.  Geese already seem to know how to do this.  We can all learn much from their example.

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