We returned this week from half term and once more the school is full of happy smiling faces. Autumn is rapidly advancing and as the leaves turn their beautiful Autumnal colours and drop, so does the temperature and the dark nights draw in. As you look to the skies each morning you can see the geese passing overhead. For me, seeing a flock of geese as they lift off from their night-time roost is one of Scotland’s greatest wildlife spectacles. It’s such a remarkable aerial display, made even better by the chorus of their high-pitched calls.
These amazing birds migrate as far as 3,400 miles from their summer breeding ground in Iceland to reach Scotland for their winter feeding, before returning North in the spring. Locally, at Loch Leven, October sees up to 25,000 geese arrive – almost 10% of the global population. The geese are known for their loud honking calls, which can often be heard when they fly in their typical v-formation in large flocks or skeins.
But even better than this, they are a fantastic example of teamwork and communication. No single bird could possibly make that journey alone. Instead the skein forms and this brings two huge benefits. Firstly, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of them, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they must stop for rest. The second benefit to the skein is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation assists with their communication and coordination. If a single bird becomes too tired to keep up or is injured, others will fall back to fly with them and continue the journey at their speed leaving the main group to advance more quickly.
I truly believe that we can learn a lot from observing geese.
John F Gilmour