Crash Landings: ‘Twas Three Weeks Before Christmas…

snow geese flash mob house

Weary snow geese make an unexpected nighttime visit in Northern California

By Paul Wait

Mike Cole really did not want his wife, Julie, to put up Christmas lights this year. You see, he reasoned, a grand spectacle of holiday cheer atop the couple’s rural Yuba City, California, home might scare away waterfowl and make them less likely to land in the surrounding acres of marshes and ponds he’d so meticulously developed to attract ducks and geese.

Oh, the irony.

Mike and Julie were spending a quiet Saturday night at home on Dec. 4 with their dogs. A thick blanket of fog had descended across their slice of the northern California, the perfect night to stay in and cozy up to the fireplace. Outside, Julie’s newly installed Christmas lights were beaming brightly through the misty night for all the world to see.

Suddenly, just before 9 p.m., about the house arose such a clatter — a brazen thump, a loud bang, a crash and a spatter.

When Julie sprang to a window to see what was the matter, the glow of outdoor lights shined bright on dozens of dazed geese across her porch and lawn a scattered.

snow geese flock crash into house

“It was the craziest thing,” Mike said. “Snow geese were hitting the siding, bouncing off our windows, and sliding off the roof. Pretty soon, we had snow geese all over the yard, on the deck and on the driveway. We even had a few in the garage.”

More and more misguided geese followed the flock’s first descenders, no doubt pulled down by murmurs and chatter of the first wave to hit the ground. In all, Mike estimates 300 snow geese landed — many rather abruptly and awkwardly — in the yard.

Amazingly, no windows were shattered, no siding battered.

The geese? They all seemed fine, too.

snow geese crash into house grill bbq

“They must have been exhausted from migrating, and the thick fog had them disorientated,” Mike said. “They had to have seen those lights and needed to get down somewhere.”

For her part, Julie recorded several video clips and photos of the surprise guests. The geese were seemingly just too tired to startle. The uninvited yard party birds just stood firmly in the flower beds, on the porch and in the driveway, unbothered by the Cole’s barking dogs mere feet away inside of the house.

While retelling the tale of these wayward winged travelers, Mike excitedly noted — as an avid hunter would — that indeed, one of the birds resting on his patio was a blue-phase snow goose, a rarity in the Pacific Flyway.

With the unusual event now properly documented, the couple calmed their dogs, shut off the lights and climbed into bed. While the weary flock of geese stayed put for several hours, all but a few had departed when Mike awoke the next morning to go hunting.

The Coles were left with an early Christmas memory, and alas, a little bit more.

“The geese destroyed my succulent garden,” Julie lamented. “It took me nearly two hours to clean all the poop off of my deck and pavement, too.”

snow geese flash mob house

Then, with a wry smile, Julie pointed out to Mike an indisputable fact: Not only had waterfowl not been scared off by her brilliant display of holiday light, but the beaming beacon had, in fact, brought a large flock of geese as close as the finest calling and decoy spread might.

“Maybe,” she smirked, “you should put Christmas lights on your duck blinds.”

Paul Wait is senior director of communications for Delta Waterfowl.