We just finished doing a job we have done annually for 9 years:
Herding Canada Geese.
In our part of the world, Geese molt during June, and cannot fly. Interestingly, this is also the time they hatch their young, so flightless goslings (cute!) are protected by parents that also cannot take to the air.
The geese know they can't fly, so they tend to stay pretty close to water, and when threatened, the whole bunch is "on the pond".
The State Department of Natural Resources hires us to come with the R22 and run these critters off the water and into temporary fencing, so they can count and band them.
Birds without a band get one. Those birds also have their sex determined and noted. Older birds frequently have bands already, and those are documented so the DNR folks have an idea of the birds' history.
The bands we put on the geese are reported by hunters that shoot them, furthering the DNR's knowledge about this natural resource.
To do this job, we literally use the helicopter as a sheepdog, herding the uncooperative, (and sometimes obstreperous) animals out of the water and onto the bank to be surrounded by DNR biologists.
These guys are experts.......they love their jobs and are fun to be around.
We take a great deal of risk with the helicopter, hovering and maneuvering over water for extended periods to drive the geese aground.
But these DNR guys have learned to trust us enough to come under the rotor system during the last part of the drive to help push the geese out of the water! If they didn't take this risk, we'd lose a percentage of birds on each drive.
It's wonderful to know they have that much trust in us as pilots, but it's sobering to think we need to be that "situationally aware" of where our main and tail rotors are in relation to the 2, 3, or 4 guys that may be helping to make that final push.
There is lots of risk in the flying.......the hovering over water, trees and brush on the shore that the birds love to hide in..........the risk of sticking the tail rotor into that brush or dipping it into the water at such a low hover.
But at the end of the day when we are talking about the work, everyone is excited and complimentary about our skills, and about the overall job that we are doing. It makes ya proud to be a part of this team.
But we can't be complacent. Just one false move could mean disaster.....and it has happened before to predecessors.........two helicopters have ended up under water doing this job.
That's why it is doubly surprising that these guys are willing to do what they do with us!
This year, goose numbers were down because it has been exceedingly dry in this area.
We still moved over 2,000 birds in 3 days.
And when the work is done, we start looking forward to coming back next year!