Flight School

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The 2015 class of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) naval aviators started flight school this week!

I’ve been watching these youngsters on daily dog-walks in the park since early May. When they first showed up I noticed the their resemblance, in size and coloration, to the yellow puffball flowers of the American sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) towering above.

There were about 8-10 adults living in and around the lake and two pairs successfully hatched large clutches, the second batch about 10 days after the first.

The whole flock pitched in to keep the cautious but curious brood within a protective circle, long black necks and heads swiveling like periscopes scanning the horizon for imminent threats.

A Canada goose squadron flying in tight formation.
downy canada gosling by Ingrid Taylar (CCL)

Every morning’s stroll includes a peak into the classroom, watching as the new recruits move through basic training. First lesson: water =safety. Mandatory swimming lessons for all sailors! Initially,members of the new crew were skeptical, needing some strongly worded encouragement from a drill instructor to take the plunge.

drill sergeant by rachel kramer, ccl

In no time at all, though, they had their sea-legs and formed a flotilla.

gosling flotilla by Eric Bégin, CCL

Next, the unit practiced how to parade. The slow, unhurried pace set by the adults was clearly intended to convey respectability and prestige, and they pulled it off with stately ease. The trainees were another story entirely. Try as they might to imitate their elders, casual dignity is mighty difficult to achieve when your growing body hasn’t quite caught up to your oversized feet—ask any 12 year old boy wearing size 11 sneakers. The slightest break in concentration and the whole company piled up like dominos.

big feet by Pam P Photos, CCL

There was so much to learn! How to keep their uniforms squared away…

preening by Tjflex2, CCL

Calisthenics to strengthen those important pectoral muscles…

flapping gosling by Jeremiah John McBride, CCL

Choosing the right mess hall…

grazing gosling by Ray Morris, CCL

Not to mention growing by leaps and bounds. Before long, it was time to strap on the black aviator helmet and take off!

gosling chin-strap by Eric Bégin, CCL

Their first flights were brief and aquatic; buoyant new pilots seem to find over-water touch-and-go’s less intimidating. What’s the worse that can happen? You ditch, you get wet. A bruised ego heals a lot faster than broken bones.


water landing by John Benson, CCL

Next, the flight instructors lead youngsters on low, circular cruises around the park, honking encouragement all along the way. Landing on turf requires more skill and daring..

touchdown by John Benson, CCL

As well as greater maneuverability to avoid trees, lamp posts, power lines, and buildings. Practice makes perfect but there can be some embarrassing mistakes along the way.One missed turn can result in an unintended landing.

roof goose by essayru, CCL

Still, they’ve definitely got the right stuff: determination, focuse, and drive. Whether they chooseto become full-time Mid westerners or set off next year for northern climes to search for adventure and a mate, wild blue yonder here they come!

early flight by J. Michael Raby, CCL

 

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Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey loves looking for wild things in all the wrong places... so she became an urban biologist. Her quest to entice others to share this passion led to flirtations with (gasp!) the media—as a columnist for the Houston Chronicle; as host of KUNM-FM’s Wild Things; as producer of an Emmy® winning wildlife documentary; and at her Next-Door Nature blog. Kieran has way too much fun as official Animal-Vehicle Biologist for NPR's Car Talk, and she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey loves looking for wild things in all the wrong places... so she became an urban biologist. Her quest to entice others to share this passion led to flirtations with (gasp!) the media—as a columnist for the Houston Chronicle; as host of KUNM-FM’s Wild Things; as producer of an Emmy® winning wildlife documentary; and at her Next-Door Nature blog. Kieran has way too much fun as official Animal-Vehicle Biologist for NPR's Car Talk, and she isn’t ashamed to admit it.

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sanda akerlund
sanda akerlund

sanda akerlund

M Leybra
M Leybra

Thank you Lindsey, a charming read along w/ the exquisite photos.