March 16, 2013

Cursed with wings

Public image by Alan Wilson.
I was bracing myself as the north wind
charged across the small meadow amid the grassy dunes
when I heard the geese.
They were nowhere to be seen in the sky
and their calls sounded less like the typical
"let's get moving, let me take the lead"
and more like calls for help.

And then I saw the lead goose with her
squadron in tow, as she crested a far dune
with only inches of clearance.
Their flight path traced the silhouette of the dunes
as they dove leeward to duck the wind
for a moment and then up and over
and into the fray for a few moments more.
The geese traveled slowly with wings that pumped furiously,
perhaps a wing beat for every yard advanced.

I have been told it is unwise to try to deduce the psyche of
wild animals or ponder their thoughts,
but is was clear on this day
that the group felt they were cursed with wings.

Over eons their wings had been shaped
to follow verdant hills that slipped southwards in winter
and sprinted northwards in spring.
The early-season zephyrs might normally fill their
long, wide wings like a mainsail
to push them towards northern prairies.
But, their wings were no match for this boreal burst,
which was meant to stall spring and surprise wayward fowl.

Today, indeed, they were cursed with wings.
With each beat, perhaps a thought about walking?
But, they stayed in the air as the legs of a goose offer
no option to stop and walk at a faster pace.

In this wind, adaptation favored the mule deer that burst naively into the
meadow, jumped in alarm when he almost crossed the formation,
and then outran them for a short stretch before trailing back
into the dune field and shelter.

Winds change.
Perhaps this courageous band of geese
flew towards tomorrow
as they loudly struggled against the winds of March.
Away, and out of the meadow,
they left me with the wind.

March 5, 2013 in Ainsworth, NE

March 2, 2013

Invention from necessity: lions, lights, and turn-signal switches

Here is a great story of a young boy in Kenya who found a new way to protect his family and their livestock from lions.  Conservation is usually a series of small steps to solve big problems.  This is a great example of a contribution from outside the ranks of professional biologists!