Whooping Crane Whooping Crane

Goose Send-off
A Migration Poem by Owen Neill

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The voice of ancient gossamer
rises still its ancient way
in the quiet thunder f eager wings
trying what the north winds say.

What do winds whisper in clever ears
that makes the time to go just right?
The wonder is the mesage comes
to all at once like second sight.

Preparation, patient, strong
born from the egg with what they need
each bird follows its primal plan
ten thousand years could not impede.

We came, once with reckless sway
and cut across the natural flow.
But now repentance pricks us on
as we repair the status quo.

We set the wild geese wild once more.
We hatch, imprint and train the flock.
We run, then fly, again, again
until we share the same bloodstock.

Man and bird are strangely one
yet each cannot know the other.
Along the route soon remembered well
the wild and tame are somehow brother.

The goal is fixed in the mind as one.
All eyes peel the horizon away.
It's time to soar where long ago
all nature held its solemn sway.

Motion liquid below autumn clouds
a man-bird combination flies.
Like an ancient myth we integrate
and put sweet mytery in our eyes.

A wrong is righted heroically.
A beauty we have never known
gives hope our world at least in part
will reap the harvest we have modestly sown.

The voice of ancient gossamer
rises again its ancient way
in the quiet mystery of new born winds.
They know again what the north winds say.


Canadian poet Own Neill wrote this poem as a gift for his friend Bill Lishman, co-founder of Operation Migration--the Canadian non-profit organization that conducts thejultralight-led whooping crane migrations featured in Journey North. Mr. Neill wrote "Goose Send-off" to celebrate Operation Migration's first migratory crossing of Lake Ontario with Canada geese in 1993, when leading endangered whooping cranes on a long-lost migration route by ultralight was still a dream. (This Lake Ontario crossing was the migration experiment featured in the motion picture Fly Away Home.) Mr. Neill couldn't be at the send-off to celebrate with his friend Bill Lishman, so he wrote the poem and gave it to Bill as a gift to mark the historic event.

Owen R. Neill is a now-retired high school school teacher who is also dubbed Canada's Wolf Poet. The author of over 6,000 poems (many about nature), he has published several books of poetry. These include My Wild Colonials, Gone to Gossamer, Six Windows of the Giant, and Under Moonleaves. The latter deals "with wolves, their narowing world, and human attempts to come to terms with a loss we cannot afford." He can be reached via email at Wolfspoet@hotmail.com.

October 19, 2003 marked the tenth tenth anniversary of the subject of this poem: the launch of the very first human-directed bird migration, which involved Canada Geese and was carried out by Operation Migration co-founders, Bill Lishman and Joe Duff.  It was a day when Bill Lishman said, "...the thought of flying south with a flock of rare Whooping cranes-- a bird which neither of us had ever seen--was just a hazy, far off dream…”

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