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Ramble with Storm: Canada geese in the sky & learning curves

Mulling things on my morning ramble

with Storm, the family’s mixed Lab.

Between the drought of 2012 and the rapid color change in the trees, the strong winds this morning made an insistent rustling sound in the leftover hanging leaves.

But I was quickly snapped out of that by the sound of Canada geese coming low. First three, then four, then a flock of 37, a gaggle of 64 geese, then 21. A few more stragglers came, but I had quit counting.

At one point, I simply stopped the meathead on the back side of our extended ramble and counted geese.

In part, I wanted to see how accurate I could be counting geese in the sky. In part because I wanted to watch.

Once, a small splinter group went into a dive and roll, much like stunt pilots, as it approached the north old clay pit.

That dive and roll is a sight any hunter who has ever shot geese from a blind recognizes. What was funny is a splinter group behind them immediately went into a similar dive and roll.

Learned responses. Canada geese are good at that. That’s partially why they are wintering in Chicago and the suburbs instead of going to southern Illinois.

That short-stopped geese are one of the most dramatic things I have covered in the outdoors for the Sun-Times.

I had a chance to shoot at Ferrell’s North Winds Goose Club in 2001 off Crab Orchard Lake in southern Illinois.

Glad I did, that was the last year of a great migration to southern Illinois. Oh, there’s been Canada geese still going to southern Illinois, especially when heavy snows in northern and central Illinois push them on.

But it is no where near the hundreds of thousands of the tradition migrations that had Chicago hunters planning for hunts on the vacation time around Christmas and New Year’s Day near Crab Orchard and Rend lakes.

Tomorrow I go for a few days of fishing and wandering around Marion and Williamson County. That is one of the things I hope to discuss with club owners: How they adjusted to the change in migration patterns.

Many have switched to being more of a duck club or hunt club.

I don’t know if a migration arrived ahead of the incoming cold front or why more than 100 geese were around the town pond.

Maybe a fishermen scattered them from another lake or a farmer out combining flushed them from feeding on a harvested cornfield.

Dozens had landed and scattered on the north clay pit. Dozens of others had landed in a harvested cornfields and soybean fields.

Five, for some anti-social reason, swam on the smaller south clay pit.

On the backside of the town pond, only a few more hedge apples were down. But since yesterday, the soybean field on the back side has been harvested.

The changes come quickly.

A handful of robins flew in and out around the town pond, but otherwise no rabbits, no squirrels, no kingfishers and no great blue herons.

In town, a lone gray squirrel bolted up a nearly bare maple.