Autumn Senses–The Sounds of Canada Geese

geese2I stand on my front deck. I hear a faint sound that confuses me, even as it’s getting louder. It’s the sound of a train coming through.

But the closest train tracks are several miles away . . .

The sound grows louder, gets closer.

It becomes clearer what it is.

That’s no train!

That’s a huge flock of Canada geese, heading our way.

The temps are in the 80s, the leaves are still green, the grass still needs to be mowed.

But it’s autumn. The geese tell me so. They insist.

Dozens, nay, hundreds, of Canada geese visit our bay at this time of year. In November, they’ll give way to snow geese.

The Canada geese are the early harbingers of fall. And they sound really, really excited about it.


They sit out there in the bay and yak among themselves. They squawk and they chuckle and they chortle. They yip and they yap. They sounds like they’re laughing, and arguing, and announcing important news.

They get quiet and then for no discernible reason, they start in again, all at once, raising a ruckus.

They chat early, early in the morning, well before first light, and they are the last sound I hear before drifting off to sleep.

It not just their voices I hear. When a flock comes in, I can hear the beating of all those wings and the splish as they hit the water.

And when they leave, it’s never a quiet “exit, stage left.” They leave with noise and splashing and flapping and a big huzzah.

It seems they must be communicating; it can’t all be sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I’d love to know what they’re saying. Is the meeting in Monty’s Bay the equivalent of a block party, a meet and greet with neighbors? Or is it more a high school reunion, seeing friends they haven’t seen for years?

Are they talking about how they spent their summer vacation? The sights they saw up north? Or are they planning the upcoming trip, deciding where to stay and where to eat. That’s what we talk about when planning a trip . . .

They sound pretty happy and excited, but sometimes they sound cranky and argumentative. I imagine them arguing over who gets to fly first, out in that big point in the V in the sky.

“It’s my turn! You did it last time!”

“Well, I’m better at it than you! You led us to Kansas. Who wants to got to Kansas?!”

“How come I never get to be in front? I’m tired of looking at your back end!”

“You can’t be in front, you’re a girl!”

“You sexist gander, you!”

They all talk at once, nobody seems to be listening. It’s enough to make a person think of American politics . . . well, never mind.

Autumn in upstate New York smells like campfire. It tastes like a Northern Spy apple and cider doughnuts. It looks like maple trees with leaves aflame.

And it sounds like Canada geese.

What does autumn sound like in your neck of the woods?



84 thoughts on “Autumn Senses–The Sounds of Canada Geese

  1. Ah,Canada geese. They were part of our North Yorkshire landscape, flying overhead honking the while, for several weeks before we set off for Korea. Now don’t you go making me homesick.

  2. I awoke to the geese flying south over our home a few weeks ago here in southeastern Michigan. Like you my mind at first thought what is that? But soon I knew and felt the cool in the morning air. Yes, the geese always know first, Autumn had come. And though it may get hot in the afternoon the cool evening/mornings are true autumn.

    • I love autumn–it’s my fave season–but it’s been so warm here! The forecast says real fall temps are coming in the next day or so. Just in time for my return visit to Vavstuga!

      • I love it too it is my favorite only 2nd to spring, my other favorite! Enjoy Vavstuga, the flowers on the bridge, the beautiful leaves as they begin to change with the cooler weather. I look forward to your photos! And will be jealous that I’m not with you there!

  3. I’m waiting for them to stop by here. It feels like autumn but I haven’t seen the geese yet. They stop traffic on the roads and highways. People in Portland, Oregon stop for the geese and wait as long as it takes. I’m ready for autumn. So ready. Our temps are cooling, days are shorter. I’m done with heat. Now where are the geese?

  4. Leaf blowers, that’s was autumn sounds like here. I hate the noise. I have a trusty old rake and gather up those leaves the old fashioned way.

    Are the geese heading south earlier this year?

  5. Like insearchofitall we have canada geese on the lake nearby and similarly queses form while we wait for them to pootle across the road. The other day I was waiting then they immediately turned round and walked back, I was late for work but did arrive with a happy heart.

  6. Though I have “bird phobia”….there should be a “love” option for this post. Your photos are beautiful. Peaceful. Makes me ready for our lake trip!

  7. the geese have gone, mostly… the blue jays are back and noisy. Autumn in Maine is much as you describe, but also with some smokey smells – not campfires, but burning blueberry barrens. Some folk burn in spring, some in autumn. This year has been so dry, though, that I don’t think many will burn until spring. but we smelled smoke the other night. Then the woodstove smoke will come after that, and that smell lingers until May. 🙂

    fresh apples and cider and cider donuts, mmmmmm

    • Oh, yes–Maine has wonderful fall smells and tastes and sights! I’m surprised to hear the geese have gone–they have settled right in here, i guess because it’s so warm.

  8. Today, right now, it sounds like a mower going in a neighbor’s yard, and breeze through the trees. Our windows and doors are closed, shutting out bird song, though this time of day there would not be much. Later we’ll open up and there will be insects buzzing in the trees out back. We may still hear the catbird calling. And if we’re especially lucky, after dark we’ll hear a barred owl or two.

    • We never seem to hear owls–I would love that. And we’ve had so few bugs this year. We hear the kingfishers and a few small woodpeckers, and the herons, along with all these verbose geese.

  9. Haha…I loved your imagination of their conversations! Your style of writing makes me want to read over and over again:)
    And stunning captures Kerry!
    Well, I don’t see any hint autumn in Toronto as of now!! It’s warm & sunny outside and hence I compensate by adding Pumpkin Spice to my cappuccino!

  10. LOL! Love the conversation… We’ve been getting flocks of them too. Starting to head South. They fly above our home, so close they cast shadows on our lawn. The kids run after them, flapping their arms. It’s always such a happy time. Like you, besides the light growing dimer and the nights cooling off, our days are still warm. We were all in shorts and short sleeves today, I was wearing my flip flops… Any day now I think to myself. A few of the older tired maples in my area are starting to turn, a few more suffocated trees along the highway, but in our happy home, all is green. I even have arugula and swiss chard that are growing. Honestly, it feels more like late august. But we will take it! 🙂

    • I think the warm days are coming to an end, at least for a week or so–our forecast is for much cooler tomorrow so I bet you’ll have the same. I love the image of the kids pretending to fly with the geese! Do they squawk, too?

  11. We don’t have Canada Geese here, way too far off the beaten track for them. Plus it’s spring here and the birds are so loud and happy I have no idea what it sounds like in Autumn any more. We do have a marvelously funny bird dressed in deep blue feathers and bright orangey-red beak and long legs that communes much like your geese though. They are quite quarrelsome first thing in the morning when they are hungry and again in the evening when they are tired and cranky after a long day foraging for tasty bits ……. The rest of the time they shout across the roads at each other about this and that, at the top of their lungs and often [I think] interspersed with copious swear words. 🙂

  12. Really amusing post Kerry! I loved your photos too. What does autumn sound like here? It’s quiet, much quieter than late summer. The busy time on the fields is over but there is still some ploughing to do and the plough is followed by seagulls. The children are back at school and most of the holiday-makers have returned home so the roads are less busy. The robins are singing again but it’s a sadder song in the autumn. Not all the summer birds have left on their journey south yet and most of the winter birds haven’t arrived. At night the tawny owls hoot to each other for hours and the moorhens are calling from the pond. The muntjac deer are barking as they search for a mate.

  13. The persimmons are turning orange and the confederate rose is full of buds.. Signs of fall in the south,also noticed that the goldfinches are back for the winter. Lovely post , Kerry !

  14. I wonder if they are our SD geese, especially since they are noisy landing and taking off. We seem to be the nursery lake, I counted 35 babies one morning…they are hilarious, and their flight skills are a little scary!!!

      • This year was the best ever, and of course they all hatch on different days. The growth rate is so fast…there are the tiny little hatchlings looking at the water with horror, and right next to them a half dozen LARGE downy babies that act like silly tweens. They are already half the size of their parents, but not a feathered between the lot of them, only down. But they all follow mom in a line with dad guarding the rear.

  15. What a beautiful autumnal scene; I know exactly what the geese are discussing ~ Kerry’s new etsy shop! We have Canada Geese but they are resident all year. I wonder if they feel some ancient need in autumn to travel. What happens to that migratory instinct (which is so strong) when it is not needed anymore? If we put some of our Canada geese with yours, would our geese know what to do? Would the other geese bully them or instruct them?. What a lot we don’t know about birds!

    • Yes, a new Etsy shop–can you believe it? It was a ridiculous amount of work–I had forgotten. We’ll see what happens next. Your musings about non-migrating geese are interesting and make me wonder too. I mean, if ours are going to Florida, why don’t they just stay there? I think some do, actually. Maybe they’re just like people–some live south all year and others are snowbirds, who really like the cooler summers in the north!

  16. We are enjoying all of the aspects of Fall here in Maine as well…Canadian geese, cooler night time temperatures, apples almost ready to harvest and press, the gardens are now decaying a bit. Signs of change. Great conversation those geese must have….who knows what they are truly yakking about, but you are right , they sure do seem to carry on! Happy Fall to you, Kerry!

    • I love Maine in fall. Our October trip this year is back to weaving school in Massachusetts but maybe next year we’ll come to Maine again. Love the color of those blueberry bushes!

  17. They are some noisy creatures! You always know when they’re flying over. I’ve wondered what they’re “talking” about before too 🙂
    Around here fall sounds like combines and tractors in the fields and on the roads.

  18. We have geese all the time, so the magic has worn off here. We like seeing them on the lake but not so much in the yard, where they make a big mess. I’m not usre we have any seasonal Fall birds – they stay around. Now in Spring, it does seem like some birds migrate through…

  19. Lots of Canadian geese flying by in Minnesota. I love to hear their wings flapping. It sounds so strong and determined. Determined to get out of here before before winter sets in! Lots of turkeys popping out too. Its a lovely time of year.

    • Thanks, Andrea! This part of New York is heavenly–300 miles from the city people think of when they hear New York, with mountains and lakes and lots of interesting history!

  20. I always love seeing them fly over in V formation, and wonder how they decide how to switch the head position. Love your commentary of the potential discussion 🙂

  21. Gorgeous! Have you read The Snow Geese by William Fiennes? Your post is so beautifully written and reminiscent of his story about the migration of geese north to the arctic. x

  22. Great post. The sound & sight of geese always stops me in my tracks. Bruce Cockburn called it ‘Gods graffiti’. I visited the WNY NWR’s growing up, and when I ended up working in the Kansas City area, visited the NWR’s of the central flyway. And then moving to Portland, OR I visited the NWR’s of the Pacific flyway. To witness the massive migrations of Canadian & Snow geese is one of the 7 wonders of mother nature. Sadly in AZ we only manage a small gaggle every now & then. Fall/winter can feel like a cold summer day in Buffalo, minus the greenery & tall trees. Beige – everything seems to be a different shade of beige in the valley.

    • Hmmm–I lived in Buffalo for almost 25 years and never saw that migration! Who knew?! We live on Lake Champlain so the geese spend a lot of time here on their way south, in particular. I’m still trying to get photos that really do justice to the snow geese! Thanks for coming by!

      • I was just 30 min south of you in Silver Creek. Iroquois NWR north, and a little east of Buffalo, and Montezuma NWR between Rochester & Syracuse. If you timed it right – late morning, early afternoon? They would return from feeding in the corn fields. A beautiful chaos of sound & sight. In MO at Squaw Creek NWR, as an added bonus, the bald eagles would follow the snow goose migration. On a good day you could find a few hundred of them & a gazillion geese.

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