Video: It Takes a Gaggle, Winter Vacation With Snow Geese

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Snow Geese Sunset
Snow Geese, Merced National Wildlife Refuge – (c) 2020 Russell Johnson


Where can you still feel safe in a crowd? How about wandering a bog in Central California with thousands of birds swirling about the skies?

Our strategy on minimizing contact with germs is maximizing it with nature. We’re trying to get out on a hike every day.

My wife Pat and I just shared a winter vacation with a massive gaggle of snow geese.

A couple of weeks ago, we paid a visit to snow goose vacationland at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos, California (I understand they get a group rate from AirBird&Bird). For them, this is paradise. Like most vacationers, they mostly eat and sleep, gorging on tubers during the day and line dancing in the sky in the evening, before fluttering off to find a safe pond to sleep.

California in winter is cold and damp (that’s why the lady bird is a tramp) unless you are a snow goose for which it is an escape to the tropics, refuge from the howling winds and endless nights of the Arctic. They’re heading back in March, dodging hunters bullets, to nest on the tundra and make fuzzy birdie babies.

It Takes A Gaggle

Humans have a lot to learn from snow geese. They are intensely loyal to their partners and friends. They mate for life and will gather around an injured comrade to protect it. They also follow the philosophy It takes a gaggle. When it is time to fly north they line up politely in a V formation creating a slipstream – same as race cars – that pulls the rest of them along. For the Head Goose, this is pure hell, unselfishly flapping away, setting the pace on its own while the rest honk it along. At least it is given the opportunity to slip to the back to where it can relax and glide along while a new leader endures the torture.

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GONE ASTRAY - RUSSELL JOHNSON PODCAST

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