My experience with birds is expectedly mundane. I am a freelance writer, and I stay inside most of the week while I sit at my desk and type. The birds of the world remain outside to do whatever it is they do. On the whole, we barely notice each other.
My routine was interrupted last week, however, when I was given the opportunity to play with the Audubon Bird Identification App. It contains a database of bird songs that correspond to practically any bird you can think of. What’s more, when you play the bird songs, the audio is so clear and realistic that real birds will respond to them. They will call back and investigate the supposed new birds that are in their territories.
Largely, that was all in good fun, though there is a possibility for abuse by playing songs that native birds recognize as competition or by playing — accidentally or otherwise — songs of a more dominant nature for one species that can scare off a bird of that same species. I was excited to see a few feathery friends show up near my back porch; it was nice to hear their songs and find out how many birds were located within only a quarter mile of my residence.
So, how did I feel when I heard that the city of Ottawa was attempting to scare off geese from their beaches with a manned drone? Initially, not so good. But as I attempted to avoid the “too long didn’t read” mentality, I found out that Ottawa has a real problem.
Every year, Modern Farmer reports, geese show up on the city’s beaches — a lot of geese. They are causing a sort of low-level havoc, too, by doing what nature calls for: pooping everywhere. These are beaches where city residents like to relax and play, and children are a large part of that group. The geese poop contains all manner of pathogens, including E. Coli, and the concentration of geese doing their business in shallow water can lead to outbreaks of infections in humans.
To combat the problem, Ottawa hired high-tech entrepreneur Steve Wambolt to use his flying drone, the GooseBuster, to scare away the geese. Wambolt rigged his manned drone with strobe lights, speakers, and pre-recorded audio of hawk, eagle, owl, raven, and wolf calls. He then flew the device over the flocks of geese while blasting the audio and flashing the lights.
Predictably, the geese flew away when confronted with the drone. Modern Farmer says the tactic was initially effective. It did not, however, explain how many times Wambolt needed to scare away the geese to get them to reside in different locations. The drone is working well enough, the story says, that Wambolt will be taking his drone to additional beaches in the surrounding area.
If I remain optimistic that no geese were physically harmed during this process, it does not appear to me that it is such a bad tactic. The geese and human populations can get along fine with each other as long as the geese do not continue to pollute the beaches. There are many other places the geese can land — perhaps even other beaches — where they will remain free to act as they please and undisturbed from any nearby Ottawa citizens.
Image courtesy of D. Gordon E. Robertson via Wikimedia Commons