Sometimes nature outreach opportunities come when you least expect. For those watching the baseball playoffs — I wasn’t — the Dodgers-Padres game got a little nutty when a goose settled in on the field round about the 8th inning Wednesday night. It was no local, bread-fed, domesticated park dweller but a bona fide wild Greater White-fronted Goose on the ground in close right field. I picked up on it on the bird app, not eBird but the other one, and thought it might be an open door to reaching the world on an important topic.
I immediately knew (as much as one can know for certain) that light pollution — the lights of the stadium — had waylaid the bird from its migratory route, since you don’t see Greater White-fronted Geese on just any lawn in Los Angeles, but rather at local wetlands as they stopover on migration. Given that World Migratory Bird Day was just a week ago with the theme of “dim the lights for birds at night” I thought some outreach was in order. So I Tweeted on the Los Angeles Audubon account: “The bird at the @Dodgers game was a Greater White-Fronted Goose. Bright lights can disorient birds that migrate at night, which this species does. Learn more [at the Audubon website].” Things took off from there, because apparently quite a few people watch playoff baseball and had seen “the goose.”
By the end of the night the Tweet reached over a hundred thousand people and was quoted in newspaper articles across the country and translated into several languages. I spent most of the next day on the phone and video chat with reporters, with at least two television stations, a local NPR reporter, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Union-Tribune. The goose became an ambassador for migratory species with such a good story. The Greater White-fronted Geese that migrate through Los Angeles breed in Alaska, then migrate to the Central Valley of California, and then some populations migrate again to Mexico for the winter. As much as people in Los Angeles are generally unaware of it, these species and many, many others migrate over nightly during spring and fall migration and this goose happened to get caught in the lights and into primetime TV to remind people of this fact.
There has been strong support for the goose as well. People are concerned about its welfare — and I was able to confirm and let people know that it was released safely by Dodgers staff after it was ushered off the field in a trash can. I think there is a broader, unmet desire for stories about nature in todays news, at least in the LA market. When interviewing with a news anchor this week for an upcoming story on migratory birds (coincidence that it aligned with both World Migratory Bird Day and the Dodger goose), I learned that a previous nature story we had done together was the story he had gotten the most mail from viewers about in his career.
I bet we could do a story a week about nature in Los Angeles and people would be eager to hear them. But this week, we had the goose.
One thought on “Goose in the Lights”
I think my jock of a mate was watching that game. I agree that we could do a story a week about nature in LA and that is something I repeatedly toy with doing, but I end up concluding that it won’t change how people treat nature here.
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