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What did mama goose tell baby goose on his first migratory flight

What migratory geese think of the aeroplane and human world's flying abilities

Written by Ranjit Lal |
Updated: December 4, 2021 4:25:39 pm
gosling, migratory flight, bar-headed geeseBar-headed geese on their migratory flight. (Photo: Ranjit Lal)

In this remarkable “exclusive” Down in Jungleland reproduces excerpts of avian radio communiqué between a juvenile bar-headed goose — Baba Gosling (BG) on his first migratory flight, and his mother (Mama Goose). While Baba Gosling is content to just follow his parents, he is curious about some of the other flying objects they encounter on their epic journey from Central Asia to the marsh lands of the Keoladeo National Park; Bharatpur. His mother, of course, like all parents, is more concerned that the youngster keeps close and doesn’t stray from the flock.

Mama Goose: Do you read me?

BG: Loud and clear mom, over.

MG: Stay right behind me, in my slipstream: you’ll feel less tired…

BG: Ya, ya, I know! The vortices that are generated by your wings will give me a lift… we learnt that at flight school.

MG: Good boy. Now stay close. Your father is leading the flock.

BG (excitedly): MG, I have a visual of a strange, long, silvery-white flying object at about 25,000 ft, climbing higher and making a roaring noise. Is this a UFO?

MG: Darling, that’s just an aeroplane, an Airbus A330 by the looks of it.

BG (getting alarmed): MG, it’s heading straight for us. About 10 nautical miles dead ahead.

MG: Visual affirmative. Your dad has signalled we should descend to 15,000 ft.

BG: Copy that! But what is an Airbus?

MG: It’s a machine used by humans to fly from one place to another. They’re generically called aeroplanes.

BG: Humans? I can’t see anyone. Only one long, noisy, shiny cylinder.

MG: They’re all crammed inside it. Maybe, 300 of them, poor things.

BG: What?

MG: Yes, they’ll all be tied down to their seats. Two guys in front, called pilots actually fly the thing, but they’re not very good at it, so it’s better that we take evasive action.

BG: What do you mean ‘not very good at it’?

MG: Well dear, they go through years of rigorous training and exams but still, without a huge, very expensive back-up system they won’t be able to find their way to the washroom let alone their destination. They need Global Positioning System (GPS) and Air Traffic Control (ATC) and fly-by-wire and whatnot. So, we better avoid them.

BG: What?

MG: Darling, they have these fancy machines called computers to calculate everything for them: their height, direction, distance, airspeed, whether the nose of their aircraft are pointing up or down or upside down and when they had their last toilet break. It even automatically flies the machine for them entirely, powering it up and down, landing it and taking off. Without them the pilots wouldn’t have a clue. If you had been seeing the National Geographic’s Air Crash Investigation series during your online classes, instead of watching Donald Duck, you would have known. They’ve put machines called satellites up into space to tell them exactly where they are — they call it the GPS, and when they arrive or take-off from their destinations, they have to be hand-held by ATC to ensure they are guided down safely and land and don’t crash into one another. They’re passed from one control tower to another all along their route, just to ensure they don’t stray.

BG: Good grief, MG!

MG (smiling): Yes, and we work out everything in our heads! Our brains are maybe just 10 ml in volume, yet they do everything, from flying to navigation!

BG: What do these aeroplanes eat?

MG: They gulp down enormous quantities of something smelly called Aviation Turbine Fuel, and digest it with huge amounts of air. As you can see, that Airbus has two gaping round mouths sucking in air all the time. They burn up the fuel and propel themselves with one huge continuous roaring fart.

BG: MG, you got to be kidding! They don’t just browse on grass and seeds like us?

MG: No. And it’s terrible for the environment. Then there’s the noise they make!

BG: You bet.

MG: You must, at all times, stay as far away from those open mouths as possible. If you get sucked in — you’ll be flung out of the rear end in tattered bits. Also, the aeroplane might get acute indigestion and crash. They call it a bird-hit. One aircraft flew into an entire flock of geese and had to crash-land in a river!

BG: So, like us, they can land on water?

MG: Not most of them. They need miles of flat runway and an airport to put down safely.

BG: Wow! We’re really cool, aren’t we?

MG: Not as cool as some other birds. There are some tiny tots who may weigh less than 10 g, which fly more than 5,000 km, often at night and navigate using the moon and stars and arrive at their destination spot on and bang on time! Monarch butterflies in the Americas do much the same thing. Also there are starlings with their aerobatic murmurations!

BG: How did these dudes ever learn to fly?

MG: That’s a sore point! They copied us outright. At first, they failed miserably but then succeeded. But did they give us a paisa in royalty? Your father says they should be paying us royalty for every flight that takes off. Instead, they shoot us en masse! One geezer called Lord Linlithgow shot over 4,000 ducks at Bharatpur, in a single day! And they think they’re the most advanced of all living creatures!

BG: Man, do they need to get their heads vacuumed!

MG: Okay dear, climb to 29,000 ft. The Himalayas are dead ahead! No pooping on the mountains — they’ve been befouled enough by these geezers!

BG: Ugh! Copy that. Over!

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