Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Are those Geese Doing What I think They're Doing? And Just Where Have Jamie, Claire, and Roger Gotten to?

I was about to give up on Jamie, Claire and Roger still being in the area and I still might. The preparation and the event itself, The Haunted Train Ride, has been going on over at Thresherman's Park for the last week or so. The steam train has a track that circles the whole park and the field where the Sandhills have been foraging along with all the to do with the spooks that scare the customers, is right next to the track.

Therefore I didn't know if the Cranes had relocated due to the uproar, that field was foraged out, or they'd just decided it was time to head south. Today I went out looking for them in the surrounding area. I was to about give up and decide they'd gone south when very late in the day, you can see how weird the color is due to poor light, and 1.2 miles (I clocked it.) from J,C, and R's original field, I spied three Sandhills.

Of course I wasn't sure if it was them or not. Plenty of Sandhill Crane pairs probably only had one immature with them at this point but it was the right area and I'd not seen others in quite some time....

But look at their sizes. Claire is a good bit smaller than Jamie and Roger and these cranes seem relatively the same size. The one I take to be the female may be a little smaller but Claire was a lot smaller.

Look back up at the top photograph. I'm thinking that this is a different trio. Perhaps three that have just flown in. The Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI, tends to send their Whoopers out on October 10th so it is time for them be in migration.

My best guess is that this is a different family passing through and we won't see Jamie, Claire, or Roger again until next year. If Jamie and Claire return to the wheat field, considering their differing sizes I'd be reasonably comfortable deciding it was the same pair. But young Roger who will be likely out on his own, will be more difficult to spot. Though he is huge now, he'll have filled out a little more with the testosterone and be even bigger than his Dad who is on the grand side of male Sandhill Cranes anyway.

We'll see what Spring brings.

And the Canada Geese? They're still passing over in droves come evening. I did see something rather interesting tonight though.
Geese tend to honk as they go over, right? Sometimes they seem to be "talking" all at once within their flight group, and sometimes they're calling to Geese on the ground who will answer back and then join the flying flock. I've always thought that the ones on the ground had just spread out further foraging and the calls were for regrouping of geese belonging to the group. Then again I suppose that with Geese, the more you can collect into your flight flock, the less often you need to take your turn in the strenuous lead goose position, so perhaps they'll take all comers. Haven't found out yet and perhaps no one has yet bothered to track it. It hasn't been all that long ago that it was nailed down that they take turns at all. It was long thought that the lead goose was the lead goose for the whole trip.
At any rate, this larger group of geese had come up from a field south of me and were getting organized for the night's flight with a honk here and there. Then I noticed that one goose seemed to going down from the tip of the V seemingly looking for a spot to squeeze in. Then I noted that there wasn't a lot of honking, but rather one goose would honk periodically and everyone began to turn east. More honks and more east and a little south. Was the lead bird unfamiliar with the route and he was being given directions from a more experienced bird? Or was it the lead bird giving the directions? And remember that guy looking to squeeze in? Actually as I continued to watch it didn't really look like he was trying to squeeze in after all. He fly in the opposite direction the line was going but slowly so the other passed him by. Then he's slightly go towards those that weren't queuing up properly and there would be a few honks. Wish I'd been able to see who was vocalizing. It looked like he was getting everyone into a nice aerodynamic V. Do adult geese have to chide or train the younger ones into cleaning up their aerodynamic sloppiness? Fascinating.
We do know now, of course that migration routes for cranes, geese, and others, are not wired in, they are learned. Might the urge to migrate be there, or even the urge to migrate in a V be there, but it takes an adult to tweak performance?
So the next time you get a chance to watch when a disorganized flock takes off the ground and is getting organized, early in migration or if they learn they'll have learned it already, don't be bored when you look up and say, "Oh it's just another flock of Canada Geese." Look up and try to help us all figure it out!
Donegal BrownePosted by Picasa

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