SMBO 2015 – 1

Welcome to the first issue of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors; we are very excited to have you on this journey with us. Mike Blair is a very talented man and we want to help share his talent with the world. Be sure to check in regularly to the website, find Mike on Facebook, keep up with the tweets on Twitter and join our circle on Google Plus!

Mike Blair lives in the midwest and like most of the country, it gets frozen over this time of year. As a result, there’s a very select group of wildlife that is available to encounter. A large portion has either gone into hibernation or migrated. However, Mike has done a lot of work with waterfowl, in the past, around this time of year. More specifically, geese. We’ll talk about a couple types of geese that Mike has filmed.

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Snow geese are pretty common factors in Blair’s work, but why does he see them often during this time of year? While Snow Geese migrate south like many birds, they are one of the first to start their return migration. They migrate back north in the months of January and February; these months are still very cold and frozen but these waterfowl want to reach their nesting grounds as soon as possible. These birds nest and breed in the arctic tundra.
How can you tell you’re looking at Snow Geese? According to allaboutbirds.org, Snow Geese are white bodied with black wing tips. You hardly notice the black wing tips when the birds are at rest and the wings are folded, but the marking is visibly noticeable when they take flight. You may also see dark-morph snow geese, also known as “Blue Geese,” mixed in with snow geese. Blair has encountered this a time or two. These birds have a dark brown body but retain the white on their head and underneath the tail.

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A Ross’s Goose is very similar to the Snow Goose. It’s also white with black wing tips but they tend to be smaller and their beaks are different. A Snow Goose will have a “grin patch” along it’s bill while a Ross’s Goose does not; also, it’s bill is curved while the Ross’s Goose bill is straight. Then, you may have a Ross’s Goose and Snow Goose mix which like many species crosses can show traits of both. Doesn’t that get confusing. . .

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Another type of goose that Blair has documented on occasion is the Canada Goose. It’s considered to be in the “dark” goose category, with it’s black neck, tan breast and brown back. The Canada Goose is more commonly seen than Snow Geese in public areas. Some people even have Canada Geese as pets. While, Snow Geese tend to avoid human activity, Canada Geese aren’t as picky with their resting spots.  Canada Flight 

The last type of goose that I’ve seen Mike Blair do work with is a White-fronted Goose. These birds are also part of the dark-morph group. Looking strikingly similar to the Canada Goose except these birds have a white breast.

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Blair says he gets excited about getting to video and photograph waterfowl. He likes the challenge of catching a sharp image of a moving bird and these birds can move. In Blair’s video, “Waterfowl Flight Signal,” he talks about the signals that geese give off when they are preparing for flight. The signals are given by the group leader and there may be several group leaders within a large flock. The reason for this is that geese are unsurprisingly very social birds. They retain strong family bonds and travel in family units. There can be several smaller family units within larger flocks. Young birds will stay with their family through migration, up until they are paired and form their own family unit. So, there is a leader of each group. When a leader wants to signal that it’s time to take off, it will stretch its head up and shake it. At this point, if the group is ready to leave, they gather and take their places, finding their place and getting wing space. They turn into the wind and when it’s time they take off together. The leader continues to signal to the group through head waggling and honking, throughout the take off.  You should definitely check out this amazing sight.  Waterfowl Flight Signal

I learned quite a bit while stalking Mike Blair’s work with geese. One thing, I found particularly fascinating is that geese tumble. When I hear the word tumble, two things come to mind. Falling and gymnastics. What geese do is a very talented combination between the two. Blair explains it all in his video Geese Tumbling.” Geese are very large birds and are much heavier than ducks or other smaller birds, thus, their descent and landing differs. This is especially the case when it’s windy (which in case you didn’t know, is quite common in Kansas). Geese ‘tumble’ to slow down and lose altitude. It happens very quickly and is a tiny movement; in fact when you’re watching it, it appears as a tiny flicker. I highly encourage you to watch Blair’s slow motion of this practice. Geese Tumbling, Canada Flight

Blair once described geese as the more refined waterfowl species. He likened them to the waltz. They’ll casually circle their landing space and tumble gracefully from the sky. They’ll even keep their noise to a quiet murmur while huddled together on the water surface. However, there is one instance when he has described them as a “thundering collage of sight and sound.” It is the same instance as the only time the geese will take flight without being led by their leader. These two things happen when there is a predator present. Blair caught this moment well when a Bald Eagle flew over a resting group of Snow Geese, and a Bald Eagle can definitely be described as a predator. When this happens, the geese will suddenly take flight creating a confusing mass of flying birds. The main object for the geese is simple, don’t be a sitting target.

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Blair sits and waits patiently for the perfect shot and short clips of video. He loves being outdoors and loves to experience wildlife. We’re here helping him share those experiences with all of you. So, make sure that you visit the website, Facebook and Google Plus. If there is a picture or video that you enjoy, leave a comment and let him know. Click “Like,” “Share,” “ReTweet,” and “+1” so that more people can peek into the amazing world that Blair is able to capture through his work. Together, we can open people’s eyes to wonders they had no idea about. See you next week for the next Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors.

 

“Each day brings new Light, new Discoveries. . .” ~Mike Blair~

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For full size images visit the members Goose Gallery!