Saturday, September 12, 2009


Does it qualify as a migration if the Canada geese just fly back and forth between destinations in a small area? I rather doubt it, but the birds still fly in formation, honking in that haunting way that literally says “autumn,” and takes your breath away as they pass overhead.

Lately, here in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, right behind my current residence, over the site of the former pickle factory, you could set your clock to their evening flight. Six fifteen. Six eighteen at the latest. The way the fading sun catches their wings is simply awe-inspiring. Is this the flock from the Campus Pond? Where are they going? I like not knowing the answers.

There are now many places across North America where Canada geese have ceased to migrate, so at home do they feel in what was once just their summer residence. This is especially true in urban and suburban areas where people feed them constantly, and there are vast lawns (i.e. parks and golf courses) for them to relax and nibble on.

Unfortunately, goose poop has become a real quantitative sanitation problem in such circumstances, and while it was once a pleasant novelty to have a dependable flock at the park, it has become at least a smelly nuisance requiring one to step carefully anywhere near a water feature.

My friend Jeff Boettner used to band birds, and he is carefully tuned to when the true migrations happen. Shorebirds, he says, have probably already passed through along the coast. Hawks are about to start, especially the broad-winged hawks.

For now, I’ll find contentment in this “mini-migration,” and enjoy the enchanting call of the wild that offers accompaniment to the changing foliage.

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