Saturday, September 26, 2009

All the Geese in the World and Rural Red-tail Steam looks into the Sun

I'd been hearing the Canada Geese go over during the night and they seemed to be passing over for hours, racing in front of the storm front which was on it's way. But still when I looked over into the grain field I was a little stunned. Whoa, that's a lot of Geese all in one place.

Much more subtle but also very surprising, was the sight I saw when I glanced west. I missed the shot but when I first looked at the dead tree that Steam had been perched on the other day, previously, there he was in the same tree, possibly even the exact perch but instead of looking north he was staring straight into the sun to the west.

Unusual because a Red-tailed Hawk rarely if ever stares into the sun while hunting or evading an intruder. They do exactly the opposite. Remember when Mr. M lured me into looking directly into the sun, momentarily blinding me so he could allow the Mrs. to exit the nest without being seen? And

Plus when hunting who would you rather blind, yourself or your prey? Not a toughie to answer. But Steam was looking into the sun, possibly because that dead tree is the tallest around and while exposing him due to the lack of foliage, he has a 360 view to watch for the approach of intruders. In this case, I'd surmise he had his eye on another raptor who was coming from the sun to put him at a disadvantage. In fact just as I looked up at him he took off from the perch due west, at height.

To be honest, I'm not at all sure that I've ever seen his mate, but I believe he has one because, one- he's mature, two- holds a territory, three-I have heard the begging of fledglings but always in places in which I would be trespassing if I went to track them down.

But back to all those Geese--on my approach they all started moving in mass away from me. If I shifted direction they did as well in the opposite direction with a good bit of honking. At me or to each other I'm not sure.

They all looked muscular, good exercise that flying, but also chunky and sleek feathered in a well fed sort of way at the same time. Everyone looked to have been getting plenty to eat.

When I stopped, so did they and immediately started up eating the fallen grain again. There was also a certain amount of "tail pinching". Exactly what precipitated these interactions I'm not sure, but suddenly a goose would bring his wings half up, lower his neck and head to his neighbor's tail level and go for him. The neighbor immediately turned tail and scooted away with the first goose rushing after him for a few steps. Rarely was there any contact. Mostly it was all about giving a posture threat that within seconds turned into everyone seemingly going back to contented eating.
I had to leave and couldn't watch for them to do it, but as there wasn't a goose anywhere the next day, at some point as evening came on they all took to their wings and joined the hundreds and thousands of other geese racing south before the storm.
I'm sure that Steam and his mate, perched in their night roosts, bathed by the light of a beautiful crescent moon, opened their eyes and watched them go only to settle back in after a preen or two to sleep but all the while monitoring with their ears the wide swath of movement and night sound above their heads.
Donegal Browne

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