November 19, 2020
How do geese know to fly south in winter?
To be ready to migrate in the autumn, geese start preparing in midsummer. Babies born in the spring are mostly grown up by then. Adult geese grow a new set of plumage after shedding their old feathers (a process called molting) – mostly over the golf courses I play on! They need flight and body feathers to be in good condition for the long flight ahead and to insulate their bodies from the winter cold. For a few weeks during this process, geese can’t fly at all, and they stay out of the water to avoid predators. Geese have a clock in their brain which measures how much sunlight there is each day. The days grow shorter during the late summer and early autumn and that’s how geese know it’s time to get ready for the journey south.
Families join together in larger flocks and then those flocks join with other flocks, showing they’re ready to migrate by honking loudly and pointing their bills towards the sky. Then they’re off! They fly south by day or by night, depending on factors like weather conditions or brightness of the moon. They navigate based on experience, using landmarks including rivers, coastlines and mountain ranges and celestial cues such as the sun and stars. They have a physical compass in their head that allows them to tell north and south by detecting the earth’s magnetic field. All of this enables the geese to remember their migration routes, teaching their kids as they go in their V formation (the kids fly towards the back of the V in the slipstream of the adults in order not to use as much energy as their stronger parents – hence the formation).All this preparation, all this using the natural signs God has provided for them and their guidance and care for their children enables the geese to reach the promised land of the warm south to escape the rigors and harshness of the northern winter.
Doesn’t all this remind us of our journey through the rigors and harshness of this life to land in the promised land of heaven with Jesus? We’ve prepared ourselves with lives of love and care, shedding not feathers but the ways of this secular world. We’ve joined up with large flocks not of geese but of fellow Christians and we’ve all used the landmarks of bible, worship and fellowship to guide us on our way towards our Heavenly Father. This coming Sunday we celebrate the reign of Christ, not just in the heavenly realms but also in this world in the hearts and good works of Christians around the world. Like the geese, may we be prepared to travel to the promised land and join our Lord and Saviour and our loved ones who have preceded us there.
Father, we thank for your perfect creation and particularly the geese we see all around us. What wonders you have made for us in them. As we approach once again the time of Advent, anticipating the arrival of Christ in this world, we praise you for sending Him to us to provide the essential landmarks on our journey towards the promised land where Our Saviour Christ reigns with You in glory. Amen.