Monday, November 5, 2007

"That's a negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full"

If you don't know what movie that line above came from, you must've missed the 80s.

Anyway, it's November now - and that means it's time for birds of all sorts to migrate South for the winter. Here in the Midwest, you can look up in the sky and see these creatures flying in huge "V" and "J" shaped formations. Incredibly, the same troop of birds fly right over the neighborhood every year. That sounds like a wonderful show of Mother Nature, and I appreciate all of that. But I can do without all the bird poop that lands on everything.

This year, as I drove near a large lake and several Canadian geese decided to drop their bombs on my windshield, I wondered why these birds fly in that "V" formation anyway. I had heard that it had something to do with aerodynamics of some sort. Also, I thought maybe it made the geese feel cool...like they were each a part of a avian gang or something.

So of course I did some research, just in case you were wondering the same thing.

A flock flying in formation is known as an echelon. Now, I think that's an incredibly cool word. It sounds like a great name for a car. "Hey, I drive a Toyota Echelon." I'm going to use echelon in all sorts of ways now in order to impress people.

There are two main reasons why birds fly in such a pattern.

One: birds are able to conserve energy, taking advantage of the updraft of air created at each birds' wingtips. A bird is able to get some free lift, and in the process not have to work as hard to stay up in the air. But what about the bird leading the charge at the point? Well, that dude is going to have to work his beak off. The two birds on the very end are also S.O.L. But as the bird tires, he'll move out of formation and they will all sort of swap positions.

Two: birds are able to communicate easier while flying in formation. Flying in this pattern allows each bird to see the others. Despite this advantage, you can often see that one bird not paying attention. Every echelon has some dummy that decides to daydream during flight and miss the turn...then he's by himself, flapping his little heart out. Hopefully, he'll catch up. If not, he'll be a lone goose. In actuality, he'll probably just find another gang to join. Many times, these idiots will go try to fly in formation with an airplane.

I think the science of aerodynamics can be utilized in all kinds of applications. Jet planes have flown in V-shaped patterns in order to take advantage of less drag. Motorcycle gangs have been seen cruising down the highway in similar fashion.

Recently, I witnessed an echelon of very hungry people get off a tour bus and attack a lunch buffet. The lead person looked like would eat anyone in his way. You can bet I dropped my breadstick and got the hell away from them.

Stay off the Highway to the Danger Zone.

13 comments:

Hungry Mother said...

Pretty cool. I've seen birds flying low over the water to take advantage of "ground effect". Lots of scoters do that when they're migrating. I don't know the physics of that kind of low flight in a line.

Tai said...

Good plan! Avoid being eaten by the echelon!!

As for the Canadian Geese? They ARE an avian gang. From Canada, eh.
(But, like the good Canuck I am, I can't help but want to apologize for the windsheild incident. Sorry!)

angel, jr. said...

I hate cleaning that stuff off my wind shield.

delmer said...

A couple of years ago I stepped into the parking lot at work and noticed that some geese had made a strafing run on the lot.

"How did they all know to poop at the same time," I wondered. And then I thought nothing else of it.

A few days later I was in the lot at the end of the day and a coworker appeared. "Did you notice all the bird crap a few days ago," he asked. "It looked like a strafing run."

I thought it was cool we'd both thought of "strafing run."

"How did they all know to poop at the same time?" he continued (and I paraphrased to avoid using the 's' word on your blog).

So I ask you ... how do they all know to poop at the same time? Does this happen just in parking lots? Does the amount of poop released have anything to do with the newness or cleanliness of the autos in a parking lot?

KC said...

You know that bird formation thing is something I notice and say to myself "I wonder why they do that?". Then I promptly forget that I asked myself that and never bother to look up the information. I'm so glad I have you here to take up my research slack. ;-)

Sherri said...

My car was dive bombed the other day, I don't know what in the heck these birds were eating, but I can't get the sh*t off the window!

Ugh!

Mr. Shife said...

I love coming to your blog. Always chock full of good information.

Mike said...

Somehow I knew that about the aerodynamics, but I don't know how.

"She's lost that lovin' feeling."
"She's lost that..........no she hasn't"
"Yes she has"
"I HATE IT when she does that."

Jamie Dawn said...

Ellos tienen mucha hambre.
(They were very hungry.)

I only like buffets when everything has been freshly stocked. Often times, you get up to the food bar, and it looks like a war zone.

It's amazing how birds have such a perfect sense of direction... except for the occasinal dodo.

My hubby and son were in your neck of the woods.
Last night, they went to an Avenged Sevenfold concert in St. Louis. They're on their way home now. They also visited family there, since my hubby is from St. Charles.

Phats said...

I hate this time of year because it means that winter is right around the corner.

Ever read catcher in the rye when the main character keeps asking where the ducks go when the water freezes over ha this would have been a good post for him.

Tim said...

Its said that in the late 1600's the migration of geese in and about the Chesapeake Bay area would darken the sky for days. Must of made for some rather sloppy "V's."

Karen said...

Can you believe our Robins are still here!

in Michigan!

in NOVEMBER!

Lots of our Canadian Geese hang around all winter (think maybe they like our backyard wetland)...

...orrrrrrrrr, maybe it's because of global warming.

ya think!?!

Jim said...

both ducks and geese first practice V's by swimming in V's -- geese am flying pigs!

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