Update, November 5 2011: Here's what they looked and sounded like on River Road in Richmond a few days ago (video by Russell Cannings).
Original post, November 2009: The plan was to drive to Terra Nova to look for Snow Geese. We didn't have to go that far; a large and growing flock was chowing down on the turf at Grauer Elementary School on Blundell Road.
Although these schoolyard invasions have been going on in an irregular fashion for a number of years, and many are annoyed because of what the birds to to the lawn, including what they leave behind, I still have to stop and marvel at them. Why here? Why do these birds, in such numbers (thousands), who spend the summer on Wrangel Island in eastern Siberia, on a given day decide to settle on a particular soccer field? Tomorrow it could be another field elsewhere in the city. They seem to favour the soggier ones, which make root-plucking easier, but how they pick and choose and arrive en masse is something of a mystery.
Unless you are accompanied by an ill-mannered off-leash dog, you can approach very closely-- if you don't mind risking dirty shoes. You can spot family groups, with white, vigilant adults and grey-feathered young of the year whose learned behaviour now includes foraging between chalked lines.
Now, apartment blocks, ornamental trees and mowed lawns are as much a part of their world as a wind-swept, treeless arctic island.