Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not such silly geese

Our winter visitors have been arriving in ever-increasing numbers in recent days. We love to walk across the field in the evening to see the geese devouring every ear of grain missed by the harvesters. At first we get groups of twenty or thirty, the early birds eager to get the first pickings? Then, over a period of a few weeks, the numbers increase until the sky is blackened and the noise is almost unbearable as the main flocks arrive to take advantage of our mild winter weather.

I really like to watch the stragglers coming in. A weak or injured bird will be escorted by a small number of geese. The bird at the rear honks fiercely, is it encouragement for the weakling or to let the main flock know they have arrived, I wonder? The rest fly in a tight formation to provide a strong slipstream for their exhausted member; as each of them tires, they fall to the back of the guard party and others come forward to take their place.

When I worked for the County, I had to attend the dreaded annual 'corporate team-building' days. We endured 'inspiring' talks from psycho-babblers, silly games, hand-holding, foot-massaging and other similar ways of wasting the taxpayers' money and our time. I found the following among my papers from those days, it isn't a bad description of the behaviour of geese, I'll let you judge whether you need to have its lessons spelt out so clearly:

Not such silly geese!

By flying in formation, each bird flies in the slip-stream of the bird in front, and the whole flock can increase its flying range by 71% over a single bird flying alone.
People who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and more easily because they are travelling in trust with each other.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes up the lead position.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks, and sharing leadership interdependently with each other.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it quickly gets back into line in order to take advantage of the ‘lifting power’ of the bird immediately in front.
If we have as much sense as a goose, we will step in formation with those who are heading where we want to go.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
We need to make sure that our honking from behind is encouraging and not something less helpful.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow to help and protect. They stay until the goose is either able to fly again or dies.
If we have as much sense as geese, we’ll stand by each other and give our life and support to those in need.


  1. In respect for others not flying in my formation, I will refrain from commenting.

  2. Mmm - your mention of those team-building exercises brings back all sorts of unwelcome memories (mostly of being bored rigid). I used to sit through training days, weeks and even fortnights thinking 'what a complete waste of time and money'. No doubt they were good business for the trainers.

    I'd much rather watch geese.

  3. Yes, when I wasn't bored rigid, I was squirming with embarrassment!

  4. Interesting, isn't it, that the early Celtic church in the west of Scotland chose the goose as a symbol of the holy spirit - wild, free and very noisy - instead of the quiet and gentle dove. We are visited here by thousands of Brent geese and though the noise can indeed be pretty raucous, the sight of them flying in formation and an awareness of how very far they have flown to get here, never fails to lift the heart, I find.

  5. Juliet, welcome. I'm one of your so-far-silent daily visitors. I love living on the coast and look with envy at your island pictures.
    Thank you for the observation about the Celtic symbol, I hadn't thought of that although I love all the 'Wild Goose' publications from Iona.

  6. Speaking of the County's annual 'corporate team-building' days, I'm going to one tomorrow. It's at Sandy Park, Exeter - new home of Exeter rugby club.

    It will be my first one, though speaking to experienced colleagues, 'dreaded' sounds a correct description.
    Wish me luck!

  7. I hope you get the bored rigid, rather than the squirming with embarrassment kind, Ben. Just avoid eye contact with the speakers and enjoy the food!


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