One chilly Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of sitting back on the sofa and watching one of nature’s most spectacular fall traditions. For more than an hour, thousands of geese could be heard and seen in the bright blue sky moving south, perfectly flying in their tight V formations, with just a few young stragglers desperately trying to keep up with the flock. No matter what the weather reports or The Farmers’ Almanac might tell us, we all know that the start of this magnificent migration means, without a doubt, that winter will soon be upon us.
Just because these annual miracles of nature really fascinate me, I always like to look into some of the facts concerning what has been a common occurrence of nature for centuries throughout North America and the world between the months of September and November. Geese and other species of birds have been migrating great distances between their breeding and winter grounds since the beginning of time, with an amazing precision that follows the same rivers, coastlines and other geographical landmarks each year, always arriving at the same locations. Geese, which have a life-span of between 10 and 24 years, have very strong family ties, often mating for life, and staying together for generations.
Here are some amazing facts about the annual migration of the geese.
● The longest trip is undertaken every year by the majestic Snow geese, who breed in the Arctic tundra in the summer, and winter in the farmland, lakes, and coastal areas of the south, west, and east coasts of the United States. This gruelling flight covers about 5000 miles at speeds of up to 50 mph, stopping only for rest and feeding at night, and hopefully avoiding the wily hunter with all their fancy equipment or ending up on someone’s fancy dining table as the main holiday menu.
● The Bar-headed goose of Asia migrates over the Himalaya Mountains, reaching altitudes of 30,000 feet in minus 60 degree temperatures.
● Our hardy Canadian Geese have thrived since their appearance in the 1800’s, with their numbers reaching 4-5 million by 2000, and much higher today. In 1981 6000 of the giant Canada Geese, which range in weight from 18-24 pounds, were introduced into 25 countries throughout the world, and have also grown rapidly in numbers.
Whatever the case, the grand old goose has now left the building and will not return until the spring, so I guess we can just hunker down and make the best of whatever winter sends our way. Of course there will always be those Alberta Snowbirds who have already packed up and headed south for a little R and R and a whole lot of golf. If we were smart we would dash out now and put up our outside Christmas lights and decorations, and on those brisk and very cold starry Alberta winter nights, we may even catch a glimpse of those magnificent Northern lights, or glide around the outdoor rink with the kids. Always enjoy our great outdoors, but please respect and protect our very delicate balance of nature.
Great lifetime truths for kids, adults, and growing old.
● When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your lovely locks, and never sneeze when you are getting a haircut.
● If your sister hits you, don’t hit her back, because they always catch the second person.
● You cannot trust dogs to watch your food, and never hold a dust-buster and a cat at the same time.
● You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk, don’t wear polkadot underwear under white shorts, and the very best place to be when you are sad is on Grandpa’s lap.
● Just about all adult parents have found out that raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree.
● Families are just like fudge….mostly sweet with just a few nuts.
● Wrinkles don’t hurt and laughing is always the best form of exercise because it’s like jogging from the inside.
● Middle age is when we choose our cereal for the fiber and not the toy, and although growing old is mandatory, growing up will always be optional.
● You are growing older when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster; but then again we can still party hardy, as long as it doesn’t go much past 9:00 p.m.
● Most of us will eventually agree that our four stages of life are: believing in Santa Claus, not believing in Santa Claus, being Santa Claus, and looking like Santa Claus.
Always take your time shoveling snow, bribe others with treats to get involved, and have a great week, all of you.