We are in a unique position where on one side we have large open fields (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc) and the other side a decent into a valley of rich wetlands.
This has made birdwatching incredibly interesting.
A few weeks ago, right on schedule, the honking began. The next day it was nearly a roar. That's right, the Canada geese are back!
Our unique position has put us directly along their flight path; in the morning they rise from the valley with the fog, in the evening they return from eating in the fields.
I've been especially fascinated by their whiffling behavior.
Watch the video below to see what I mean - they tumble comically out of the sky, briefly.
About whiffling in general, this is what Wikipedia has to say:
"Whiffling is a term used in ornithology to describe the behavior whereby a bird rapidly descends with a zig-zagging, side-slipping motion. Sometimes to whiffle, a bird flies briefly with its body turned upside down but with its neck and head twisted 180 degrees around in a normal position. The aerodynamics which usually give a bird lift during flying are thereby inverted and the bird briefly plummets toward the ground before this is quickly reversed and the bird adopts a normal flying orientation. This erratic motion resembles a falling leaf, and is used to avoid avian predators or may be used by geese (family Anatidae) to avoid a long, slow descent over an area where wildfowling is practised."
While watching these geese last year and more closely this year, a pattern is beginning to emerge.
In the first few days, the geese make their way to the wetlands in the evening (roughly between 8 and 8:30pm), some in small groups, many in large. As they reach the tree line, where the view opens and the wetlands (down the hill in the valley) become visible, the whiffling begins until the speeds have been adjusted and a proper land can be made.
As the days go by, the whiffling mostly subsides; they've learned the landmarks and where the water is and when to slow down.
Some unchecked and untested theories of mine:
Are the ones who whiffle a lot yearlings just learning the area?
Do geese get distracted then say "oh there's the water!" and roll down the valley?
Is it just fun and the geese re converging with their old friends are playing?
I have no way to know, but it's fun to think about.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.