And the Earth Has Music for Those Who Listen…
The Crossing Guards
The handsome Canada goose stood confidently in the concrete gutter, allowing traffic to pass, intelligent dark eyes watching for just the right moment. Its commanding presence alone seemed enough to demand obedience from the gaggle of three dozen or so goslings waiting on the sidewalk behind him.
The youngsters waited patiently, and not one moved out of position. There was no pushing, no shoving, no complaints that a sibling was standing on another’s webbed foot.
And then suddenly, undetectable by humans, permission was given and the goslings began hopping off the curb to follow their leader without hesitation. They were shepherded across four lanes of this busy city street by three more adult geese. Two flanked the gaggle on each side, preventing strays, and a fourth brought up the rear, allowing no stragglers.
The formation was tight and precise and proceeded with deliberate speed to its destination, an area of swampy muskeg behind a large big box store in mid-town Anchorage. The maneuver seemed well-practiced, well-executed. Each adult was assigned a task and carried it out perfectly.
Canada geese crossing Denali St., Anchorage
I myself assisted in their safe passage, blocking traffic behind me until the last of the geese had attained the sidewalk. While I watched, I marveled at how these wild creatures have adapted to the barriers and obstructions put in their way by man, and how they have procreated and thrived despite the changes to their habitat.
This is not the only time I have seen this behavior, this shepherding of the flock to safety. While snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park one winter we approached a small herd of bison near the road on which we were traveling.
A huge bison walked onto the shoulder of the road and slowly ambled to its center and stopped. I brought my machine to a halt, and watched the progression of the herd. I noticed that the first bison remained standing in the center of the road while the smaller females and calves walked across, and then another large bison came to take the place of the first one.
The second large bison stood guard, acting as a roadblock, while other bison continued crossing the road. This happened a third time, and then finally the last of the largest animals brought up the rear. The herd was safely across.
June 22, 2008