Birds of a Feather

"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

The latest word from the journal Science about Bar-headed Geese is that they can fly really high.

Like almost-the-summit-of-Everest high.

Actually, legend has it Bar-headed Geese have been seen flying over it at 29 thousand feet, but researchers have only tracked them to 24 thousand using GPS. But that’s still mighty impressive, given the physical cost of getting to that altitude for a bird that constantly flaps its wings.

They do it by staying close to the ground. Sounds easy, but in the Himalayas, the ground is quite vertical. That means these amazing birds gain and lose vast amounts of altitude only to re-gain it over the course of a long journey – something like going on a roller coaster ride if you had to run the length of the tracks rather than ride.

It makes one think Old Mother Goose may not have always been the doddering, bespectacled granny figure in a rocking chair. Perhaps she looked down on Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay while making up rhymes somewhat like  (but not quite) “To Market, To Market.”

To mountain, to mountain, to go very high.
Down again, down again, out of the sky.
To mountain, to mountain, to flap in thin air.
Down again, down again, nary a care.
To mountain, to mountain, on wings and not legs.
Down again, down again, hawks can suck eggs.

The stamina of these amazing birds was described this way in the Science article:

“In the lab, they nudged geese to run on treadmills in reduced oxygen to simulate high altitudes, which revealed that the birds could keep running at top speed for 15 minutes. Humans would not be able to sustain that pace in such conditions.”

Goosey, goosey flyers,
Bird who never tires.
Upskies and downskies
What strength your life requires!

As speedy as the jaguars,
As fearsome as the bears.
An up-and-downy athlete
who doesn’t take the stairs.

Picture it – a goose on a treadmill. Fifteen minutes, full speed, nonstop. Who says science isn’t fun?

What was your most amazing physical feat?

76 thoughts on “Birds of a Feather”

  1. While attending elementary school in the winter of ’62, I was “king of the hill (snow pile)” for three consecutive days during recess. My reign was cut short by a January thaw.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. i used to go out to montana right after christmas to blow off steam about 20 years ago wiht skiing and doing outdoor winter stuff as the main activities. i had a friend who was great at putting togetehr day trips to yellowstone and the surrounding area for crosscountry sking on the days when downhilll skiing was not ont he agenda. the physical part of the day was a given and i never questioned it for a minute. i had a friend come one year and they couldnt believe the pace and the amount of activity we did.
    i was in shape and kind of knew it but it was something that just required doing things i enjoyed so i had no problem keeing up with the program.
    today it would requre a few more breaks but i still love that stuff.


  3. What comes to mind after tim’s post is snowshoeing in -30 windchills (cold at first, but you warm up very quickly bounding through the woods). In my set building days I found myself doing all sorts of crazy gymnastics and feats of brawn to get sets up – most of which I don’t think I could do now. The odder ones were things like holding a set of flats in place by propping myself around one edge so I was sort of on both sides of the flats at once and them figuring out how to connect them to something like the floor or the next set of flats…and praying all the while I wouldn’t need to toe-nail anything while I did it. (Toe-nailing is essentially putting a nail or screw in at a non-right angle to something, usually through a couple somethings at once – makes for a strong connection, but it’s a pain to do.)


    1. that reminds me of the opposite of my physical prowess moment. i had a warehouse tool that was a forklift of old that needed to have the pallets 6 inches off the floor so it could negotiate under the pallet and lift. we had plastic buckets i would prop the pallets up on and if i stacked one pallet on top i was ok if i stacked 2 pallets on top i was usually ok if i stacked 3 pallets on top when i came back tomorrow it was smushed and leaning to one side. depending on what was on the side it was leaning into the consequences could vary. i came in and the was one stack of pallets leaning severely and three leaning a little. i fixed the 3 leaning a little by putting my shoulde into the leaning pallet and having the fork lift driver lift the pallets and set them down on somethong more stable. the last one was leaning hard and i got up on to of the stack of cardboard boxes thsat were not yet folded that was about 12 feet tall. i pushed the leaning pallet with my shoulder as i had done on the others but the stack of cardboard boxes i was standing on did and accordian bend and the pallet i was leaning up against started crushing me. i was getting pushed further and further into the stack of cardboad boxes i ahd to jump but when i did the pallet that was pushing me down pushed me out as i jumped and and caused me to land 4 feet to the right of where i aimed and i was doing the visual as i came down i saw that i was landing on top of a 2 wheeler cart instead of on the open area i aimed for. as i landed i had to negotiate my way back to earth but the 2 wheeler;’ took out 32 teeth and the ground broke my foot in 8 places. it took 2 years to get me walking semi normally again and i just made an appointment with a foot specialist to see if i can get some proper movement i am ok in reality but i would like to at least be able to run without dong my frankenwalk imatation. getting old is hell and my feats of strength are all in the past i am afraid. did i ever tell you about the time i worked in the limestone quarry and became a stong man without being aware it wa shappening? that was interesting beinf transformed into a piece of meat by doing physical labor and man was it physical labor…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Rise and Fly HIgh Baboons!

    None of my physical achievements are athletic, but physical none-the-less:

    1. Survived cancer and subsequent treatment
    2. Played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Minor for my sophomore recital–35 minutes long, 3 movements, not that many rests
    3. Lost 30 pounds 12 years ago.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. Good morning. When I was in high school I participated on the track team as a high jumper. I had just enough skill to become one of the varsity high jumpers. On a few occasions I was able to clear 5 ft. 9 inches. For me developing the skill to clear that height was a significant achievement because I am not very athletic.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. My daughter once told me that she had taken 100 fewer strokes than her last time of completing a round of nine golf holes. On the face of it, that is dramatic: a reduction in golf scores of 100 points. But if that feat is put in the context of how many strokes she still took overall, it looks different.

    I once ran a mile in a track meet. I was so determined to not come in last that I took 40 seconds off my best previous time in the mile. Once again, that sounds impressive. But if you knew how slow my previous times were, you would not be impressed!

    The most impressive physical feat in my life might be driving from Saint Paul to Portland in two days. The only previous time I had driven 10 straight hours was when I was middle aged and fit. This recent trip involved two back-to-back days of 10 hours behind the wheel. One lesson I learned is that I can sometimes do astonishing things if I try hard enough. Another lesson is that doing something that extravagant at my age is a damfool stunt I should never repeat!


    1. Steve, I took the s&h to the fieldhouse at the U to run his first mile race on Monday.

      He clocked a pretty good 5:12. We do not know whose child this is.

      Does Amtrak go to Portland?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. This is what I am told. Being a chronic non-runner myself, I am very slowly learning what constitutes a good time and just how close the margins are in running, even distance running.

          I think one of my other amazing physical feats is to bend the time/space continuum, so we are always more or less where we need to be.

          please, Baboons, remind me of this in a couple of years when the cats and I are wondering what to do with ourselves…


      1. Actually you can skip Seattle. When the train gets to Spokane sometime in the middle of the night they split the train into two, and one section goes down to Portland while the other goes to Seattle.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. tim-I have cousins on both sides in Seattle, so we would very likely do as you suggest.

          Only 2 things stopping me now, time and money.

          That and we are thinking any travel we can do will be college scouting. Suggestions from anyone about STEM intense schools to check out in that part of the world?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. 2 good schools in Spokane and I would suggest either Seattle or Colorado as vibrant communities for tech brain people and mit and Georgia in Atlanta has the other good one , what’s he want to do?


        3. tim- MIT is on the list, but I’m not sure I can convince him Seattle and Portland are on the way…

          I think he wants to figure out how the universe began, and/or how it’s going to end.

          Theoretical physics.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. he has the good fortune to be aware of what he wants at a young age. i would suggest he consider doing it backwards. figurre wout what the end job would be. contact the people who have those jobs and ask for thier input on his path and get lined up before he begins. he can pivot midstream but it would be cool to have input form some of the whiz kids who have found their place int e world alreadya dn can give some dierction. my experience is tha those people are very generous with the mentor role opportunities. clyde, anyone from the u of chicago?


      2. I’m in the process of planning a trip in March with Amtrak and some airlines – first fly to Seattle and say hi to the youngest kid; bus to Port Angeles for a few days; bus back to Seattle, then the scenic train (don’t remember the name of that train) down the coast with perhaps a stop in Portland area for a day or two; then the Southwest Chief to Kansas City area to see oldest kid and her kids. Then fly home. Or I might do it in reverse. Need to figure out the main pieces this weekend, then fill in the exact places to stay as I find good deals. Looking at airbnb for possibilities…


        1. it is such a shame to try to make time through one of the most beautiful parts of the world. you should be able to stop and just absorb it for as long as you need


        2. Considering the amount of bathroom breaks that Steve reported, I’m guessing that even if you stepped on it, it would take more than 10 hrs. a day. But I agree, it’s a pity to speed right through some of that country.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. A mayonnaise jar and s car wash at the end of the trip makes the trip fly by if that’s what you after
          Even my daughters learned the mayonnaise jar


        4. tim, we’re not talking about some hypothetical future trip here. We’re talking about one that has already taken place.


        5. i cant help it. i have to get involved. when i read history its interesting to read what they did but i am always plugging muself in and figuring out what i would do differently. always


  7. I think most of my physical feats involve pure endurance.

    The thing I still can’t believe I did was go out on a ledge in front if a follow spot in a no longer existing theatre in Madison to adjust it. I can’t imagine even watching somebody else doing it.

    And I’m still trying to figure out how they got those geese on a treadmill….

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Currently, it’s keeping up with 20 somethings in a very vigorous Zumba class.
    In the past it was being able to get past the tricky part on one of those roll-the-ball labyrinth gadgets (with horizontal and vertical controls you turn in order to move the plane the ball travels to follow the path and avoid holes). On that one spot, there were no little walls you could use to guide the ball – you just had to do a deft left, right, left sort of move to avoid all the holes.

    Oh, and changing a tire when only two weeks out from a hip replacement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Keeping up with 20-year olds” triggers a very recent experience of my own, only in the polar opposite direction. l joined a near-by fitness club because being on Medicare makes it free. Plus, my physical state really couldn’t be weaker. The manager urged me to join a “senior’s class”. Just hearing “seniors” ticked me off as l just haven’t accepted that label yet.

      As l entered the class, what l saw was about a dozen REALLY old women. l’m guessing between 80 and 90. There’s a big screen with trainers taking us through the gentlest, easiest work out steps imaginable. One trainer spoke softly, “Now if you don’t feel balance, just put your hand on a chair”. lt felt condescending.

      As the class proceeded, l found myself completely winded and weaker by the minute. l lasted 10 minutes of the 40-minute workout and, as l looked around, the really old women were keeping up just fine. This simply floored me.

      And so, Lisa, not being able to keep up with much younger women is understandable – but with women 10-20 years older???

      Liked by 3 people

  9. l’ll tag onto Jacque’s greatest physical feat: battling esophageal cancer five years ago and now making it into the 13% who are still alive at this point. l, too, lost 30 pounds. Unfortunately, a complete loss of appetite
    continues to threaten my survival. So many folks say, “l sure wish l had your problem”. Well, no they don’t!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My father’s gas station/coffee shop had a really high ceiling with a supporting pole that extended from the counter to the very peak of the ceiling. When I was a little girl I used to climb all the way to the up that pole. It only worked if I was barefoot, as it was too slippery in socks or shoes. My dad thought it was funny, and none of the customers seemed to mind my antics.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. the subdivision i grew up in had a pole in the middle of the basement holding up the main floor. when i was 6 or seven (king of the hill) we started doing the thing where you grab the pole and hold yourself perpendicular to it. i used to get a lot of milage out of it. after a few drinks it always impressed. i will never forget doing it in the rain in hongkong and commiting to lifting my feet into position and my hands slid down the pole and came to rest in a spot that fut my face 1 inch away form smashing into the concrete below. i was laughing so hard on the way down the people i was with coulndnt beleive it. they were all scared to death and i was to dumb to be scared. i wasnt watching i was along for the ride. it must have looked scarier watching


  11. Well I once portaged a canoe by myself in the BWCA. It was probably the shortest, smoothest, flattest portage in the entire boundary waters. And someone else bridged the canoe so I didn’t lift it onto and off my shoulders by myself.

    Giving birth three times with no meds might sound impressive but for me the real feat was making it through all the puking and stuff to get to that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This topic reminds me of a song by a Danish folk singer. It’s about the local cell phone company and how hard it is to get to talk to a live person when you call them, apparently this is a universal problem.

    The song details all the physical feats he has accomplished. He’s swum backstroke around Australia, rode his bicycle down Mt. Blanc, crossed the Atlantic in a stainless steel sink; he has choked a large python to death, caught and killed a giant killer snail, and swallowed a hungry crocodile, but he’s never reached a live person at 3-Mobil.

    He has walked bare assed through Alaska, run the Iron Man in barely 45 minutes, eaten Foie Grass without puking, and read a book about a Danish politician’s ideas (he names the politician ); he’s watched the Tour de France without dying from boredom, drunk coffee in the car without spilling, but he has never….

    He has made love to Margaret Thatcher, he’s watched a whole ice hockey match; he has eaten remoulade while changing a diaper, and smoked several hundred kilos of hash; he has fallen into a container of animal shit and crawled back out with a smile, but he has never ….

    The song ends with the answering machine saying: If you’re satisfied, press one; if you’re extremely satisfied, press two; if your extraordinary satisfied, press three; if you feel like leaving a message of thanks, press four; if you’d like to leave some of your fortune in your testament to us; press five. Press whatever you like, and keep on pressing, it really doesn’t matter ’cause you’ll never get through to 3-Mobil.

    Here it is for you listening enjoyment:

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I love that beautiful bird, Dale.

    I once backpacked for a week in Yosemite, 1972. My companion was experienced at this, arranged for all the maps, food, and equipment. All I had to do was break in my new hiking boots and condition myself a bit for the trek. I’ll never forget the switchbacks that were the first part of the climb that first day. I learned to not sit down for a break because is was just easier to get going again from standing position. I surprised both of us by being a fairly resilient hiker, and I knew plenty of music for us to sing as we went.

    My sister is here for several days, and she reminded me about this – otherwise I’d sort of forgotten, and was trying to think what physical thing I had done… Childbirth would be a close second, but I lucked out with a six hour labor.


  14. my new workout has me dong the treadmill 15 minutes at the beginning and fifteen at the end 5 full then 1 off one on one off one on for 10 more minutes. great workout. 15 on is more than i can do but if you let me sneak 5 off ( back it down a hair) i can go for 15 with no problem


  15. Riding my bicycle from Basel to Copenhagen, looking back, was a major physical feat. At the time, I didn’t think much about it. Riding about 125 to 150 km per day was a bit more than I was used to, but 25 was normal. Canoeing and hiking in the Rockies and the BWCA, again, were pretty normal activities. Day-long cross country skiing treks in northern Minnesota was something we did pretty much every winter. I was usually the oldest member of the group, but although it might take me a bit longer, and they’d have to wait for me a bit, we all knew I could and would do it.

    I admire Lisa, that she puts herself out there doing zumba with people much younger than herself; like Cb, I have hard time keeping up with the old folks in my Silver Sneakers group.

    Talk about physical feats. How about those two guys who just free climbed the vertical face of El Capitan? Hats off to them.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. I’m something of a wimp when it comes to physical feats. I’m pretty sure I will never amaze anyone. I am thankful that I don’t have the knee and hip issues many of my friends are having; I make up for it, though, with the gimpy shoulders. No upper body strength at all.

    I did once walk 22 miles for a charity walk-a-thon. I would never, never, never attempt that again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a long hike, Linda. I once read a bunch of stories written by the earliest settlers in Minnesota, in the 1820-1840 period. One of them walked 20 miles to work, did a full day of work, and then walked home again in the evening. I hurt just thinking of that.


        1. As “they” say, it just doesn’t compute.

          OT – I just received an email with this heading:
          “Achtung! Postkarte von Randi verfällt!”
          My sister sent me an e-card for Christmas through this apparently German outfit. I never received it. She asked me if I had, and I told her, no. She apparently starting digging into it, and “they” discovered whatever their error was, and so tonight I got this delightful message, all in German, that they had screwed up, and provided a link to the card. Bless my sister and German efficiency.


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