Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Goose flies upside-down

This greylag goose was captured by wildlife photographer Brian McFarlane in a manoeuvre known as whiffling' - June 2009
..and the right way up again
Residents of Dunbar link Banbridge helplessly watch as flood water flows through their gardens into River Bann. Fences had to be broken to allow the torrent of water to escape. Picture by Ian Moffatt

This is the moment a goose was caught performing an extraordinary upside-down contortion as it battled to land in heavy winds.

The bird was captured by a wildlife photographer flying with its neck twisted 180 degrees and its body seemingly facing the wrong way.

The manoeuvre may look painful but it is a known tried and tested way of braking, called whiffling.

In amazing twists and turns, birds spill air out of their wings and can slow down rapidly and reduce height. The results, however, are not usually this extreme.

This bird, a greylag goose, was photographed as it came in to land on a freshwater lake at an RSPB reserve in Strumpshaw, Norfolk. It was captured by wildlife photographer Brian McFarlane (73) who said he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“I cannot believe how this goose got into such an incredible position. It was a windy day and it was making life difficult for the birds. Some were more expert at controlling their flight while others were tossed around in mid-air.”

Paul Stancliffe, of the British Trust of Ornithology said he had seen the extraordinary move many times in 36 years of bird watching. “I have, however, never seen a photograph of a bird in mid-whiffle like this. It is an amazing photograph.”

Mr Stancliffe said whiffling makes the bird “drop like a stone so that they instantly lose height”.

“They look like they are out of control but they are actually very much in control,” he added.

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