Greylag geese are insane fliers


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).
All creatures....

Greylag geese are insane fliers

  • 7:45am, my usual stomp around Manor farm saw me midway along the north embankment, when I heard the honk of flying geese. Glancing westward I spied what I thought was a large flock of Canada geese flying over Fleet Hill farm towards Manor farm. Whilst I have loads of photos of Canada geese in flight, there is always the thought of getting the 'perfect' shot or something unusual to paint.

    I had sufficient time to get the old 800d out, pointed in roughly the right direction, and (hoping its autofocus would behave itself) hauled off a few shots.

    As the birds crested the line of Oak trees that line Longwater road they broke formation and dove down to the deck. I thought this odd at the time, but was busily tracking the birds.  Canada geese will sometimes fly down low after crossing a treeline, but would do so gracefully, gliding down in formation. These geese, however, went hell for leather down to the deck - say like a fighter squadron scattering when bounced by enemy planes.

    When I got home and looked at the photos, zooming in where necessary, I discovered that the geese in question were Greylag geese (bear in mind my dodgy bird recognition skills) and were total nutters when it came to diving down:They flew sideways; They flew upside down; They banked over sharply; They sometimes appeared to fly bum first; They flew back first.  They are loonies!

    Half an hour later, whilst walking along the south footpath to do a spot of Blackberrying, I spied another flock of these insane birds. This time, they held formation as they flew high from Fleet Hill farm and then over Manor farm, but when they flew over 'the Ridge' they did this crazy break of formation to dive down and join their buddies in 'Cormorant lake south'.

    Here are the photos, starting with the birds just as the leaders passed the treeline and began their decent. There is a Swallow photobombing this shot.

    More birds begin to cross the treeline, and start some pretty serious aerobatics to get down low.

    Zooming in on a nutty bird. A classic manoeuvre by fighter aircraft to commence a dive.

    More birds cross the treeline and all hell breaks loose.

    It's just total mayhem now.

    I'm sure that bird is flying bum first.

    The trailing edge of the flock have crested the treeline. I am approximately 100 yards from all this fray.

    These birds are just as lunatic

    When the birds reach the deck, they level out to something approaching normal flight.

    Sometimes they appear to be flying back first.

    The mayhem continues

    Even when close to the ground the birds are still flying crazy

    What is this nut up to?  Practically on its back.

    This one is even more lunatic.

    And another one.

    They have all more or less achieve level flight.

    I say all have more or less as there is always one.

    Showing off perhaps?

    By now they are definitely all heading in the right direction, and straight and level, flying over what little remains of Finch pond.

    I stopped photographing as I expected the birds to fly away. Almost too late did I realise they were beginning to land in the body of water I christened 'Cormorant lake'. My camera was also caught unawares and didn't really know what to focus on.

    As I said earlier, I spotted another flock (half the size) behave like this. Unfortunately, I was on the south footpath, mostly hidden by trees, and my fingers were covered in Blackberry juice.  A third, small flock flew over as I made my way back to my car, but I couldn't really see them. I went on the sound of the geese to identify them.

    Finally, here are the Blackberries. 6 litres picked in about an hour and a quarter, all from two small patches. I feel this year's crop is better than last year's. They were practically falling off the vines, and there were so many you couldn't see where I had been Blackberrying.

  • Spilling air like that is an easy way to lose height. What is more remarkable is how the had and eyes remain level while the rest of the body rotates.

  • Nice shots, Angus. As Bob says, they're spilling air to lose heigh & speed quickly. I've often seen Greylag's (and Pink-foot's) doing this as they drop down from height. It's always a pleasure to see such large birds being so agile. Not what you'd expect from them.

  • As I was out in the early dusk tonight Bat detecting, a flock of Geese? suddenly appeared from behind the tree-line flying in perfect crescent shaped formation towards me, over my head & disappeared behind rear trees ... no cam handy & just a rough idea of shape/size!  Lots of newly harvested fields around me!

  • Well caught Angus can't say I've noticed them losing height like that.

  • Evening folks.

    Glad you all liked the photos. Most of the credit has to go to the camera. I just point it in roughly the right direction and press the shutter, then magnify them on t'computer when I get home.  I think my philosophy is now: Photography everything!

    I wonder how efficient spilling air is? The resulting aerobatics seem to take a lot of energy. Not all the birds did it. I wonder if it was the juveniles practising or not following the leaders i.e. simply stop flapping wings and let the force of gravity do the hard work?

    On a completely different subject, but related to an image in the base post.  This is what has happened to five of the six litres (roughly 7.5 lbs) of the Blackberries I picked.  Seeing as I have already made a lot of jam this summer, I was running out of jars and was basically scraping the barrel for anything vaguely made of glass with a top.

    I think we have enough to get us through to next year. Though now that the rhubarb has sprung into life...

  • Well spotted.

    I think the whole idea of spilling air is that it is quick and easy - just tilt your wings until they no longer have enough lift to keep you up and the more you tilt, the quicker you lose height ... hopefully still in a controlled manner!

    I don't think any bird except maybe a hummingbird can actually fly backwards though. Most other birds don't have wings that are flexible enough for the complex movements required to go backwards.