Father Goose Flies Away Home

William A. Lishman 1939 – 2017

Bill Lishman was a man of many talents. Listed on his curriculum vitae were diverse abilities like photography, metal sculpting, writing, film-making and architectural design. He created his own underground home, leaving the local building inspectors scratching their heads. He built the machines that cut the material for his wife’s world-renowned fur fashion business and was the first person to fly in formation with a flock of birds.

Bill’s self-taught occupations could produce dynamic, powerful or sometimes whimsical results but the quality of the outcomes were remarkable. Paul Lishman knitted fur fashions were innovative and sold around the world. Their home in rural Ontario was a local tourist attraction and his sculptures graced institutions, town centers and World Fairs. His first flights with birds led to the reintroduction of Whooping cranes into the Eastern Flyway.

In the late 1980’s Bill taught himself to fly. Long-time employee, associate and friend, Richard Van Heuvelen would repair the hang-glider after his many early mishaps. Eventually, Bill added an engine to his aircraft and after seeing local film maker, William Carrick lead Canada geese with his boat, Bill tried it with his ultralight.

He produced a homespun video called C’mon Geese which won international awards and attracted the attention of Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation.

Whooping cranes learn migration behavior by following their parents but when the birds that once used the Eastern Flyway were wiped out years ago, those routes were lost. Bill’s efforts to lead geese held the key to human taught migration. Bill’s adventurous flights and George’s insight led to the  100+ Whooping cranes that now migrate in the east, the first in over a century.

Bill Lishman passed away this weekend. Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

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  1. Alejandro Irausquin January 5, 2018 1:17 pm

    I was tagged today in a video from the french ornithologist that lead geese and cranes in Europe, and when searching for links on Operation Migration I came across the sad news. A tear came out immediately. I learned about his work in the movie Fly away home, and having early access to internet I was able to learn about his work very soon. Far thee well, Father Goose.


  2. Barbie Adams January 5, 2018 1:34 am

    My sincere condolences to his family and friends.


  3. Joyce Kleen January 4, 2018 3:20 pm

    So sad to hear of Bill’s passing. I just watched Fly Away Home on TV over the holidays and have the DVD and Bill’s book, Father Goose. It was great to work with him and Joe Duff and the entire crew on the whooping crane reintroduction into Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge where I am still the biologist (for a few more years!). It is definately a highlight of my career. I can’t even imagine the feeling Bill had seeing whooping cranes off the wing of his ultralight! My condolences to the family.

    • Heather Ray January 5, 2018 5:53 am

      Thank you Joyce. Good to hear from you!

  4. Rob Ferguson January 2, 2018 10:53 pm

    Thanks for all your unique inspirations Bill. The geese and Sandhills cranes also mourn your passing.

  5. Dick Brooks January 2, 2018 12:31 pm

    What a great legacy he left us along with everyone who has worked so long to restore whooping crane populations east and west. Seeing wild whoopers riding the air currents is one of the greatest sights in nature. Thank you

  6. Luella Frank January 1, 2018 10:33 pm

    Sorry to hear of his passing. He was a man for the ages. May he rest in peace. Condolences to his family.

  7. Babs – Seattle January 1, 2018 4:11 pm

    I found Bill’s ‘C’mon Geese’ video on YouTube and web links are a bit iffy to add here. So just do a search on Google for “C’mon Geese” .. and then click on the video: C’mon Geese Part 1 – YouTube

    Part 1 goes directly to Part 2. Bring your Kleenex. I consider this a ‘must watch’ for all craniacs.

  8. Joan Guilfoyle January 1, 2018 1:52 pm

    I’m very sad to learn of Bill’s passing. We worked together in the late 90’s on the whooping crane ultralight project, to reestablish a migrating flock of whoopers to the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada. Bill was a remarkable man, without whose inventiveness and imagination the project would never have been possible. His joie de vivre, kind heartedness and generous nature lightened the long days (indeed, weeks) during my two migrations as a WCEP team (ground crew) member. I’ll always miss and remember him, and send Paula, their kids, Joe, Richard, Deke, Rebecca, John and other team members my affection and my sympathies during this sad time. Bill’s happy smile carries on in the hearts who knew him.

  9. Kerry Brookman January 1, 2018 12:28 pm

    One of those rare folks you hope would live forever. A loss for us all.

  10. Judi January 1, 2018 11:18 am

    Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends. Quite a remarkable man.

  11. Glenda May January 1, 2018 8:14 am

    What a beautiful man whose creative heart and soul touched so many in such honorable and delightful ways. Those who knew him or knew of him have been and remain blessed. Blessings to his family and friends far and wide and blessings too to the cranes he loved so much through his gentle and intelligent devotion. R.i.p. kind soul…

  12. Babs – Seattle January 1, 2018 2:55 am

    My thoughts and condolences are also with Bill’s family, friends, and all he inspired along his journey. I went to the bookshelf and took down a book that has always been a favorite of mine: “Father Goose,” by William Lishman – Photographs by Joseph Duff. I think it’s time for another read. Bill is not to be forgotten.

  13. Paula December 31, 2017 9:57 pm

    My sincerest condolences to his family, friends, all who knew him.
    Bill Lishman’s book “Father Goose” sits in our bookcase no more than a foot away from me. “Fly Away Home”, the DVD with special features about Bill and geese, is in the TV stand across our room. He transformed more than just geese, cranes, and migration. He touched our imagination and hearts. Rest in peace and soar on heavenly thermals.

  14. Cindy Birkner December 31, 2017 5:57 pm

    So sad to hear, his story inspired me and my students for the last 17 years. I begin my second semester with migrations and populations, using the whoopers as a focus. He will be missed, but his inspirations live on.

  15. Diane Riffel December 31, 2017 4:47 pm

    I am so sorry! I think they based the movie on him–didn’t they?


  16. Rolando December 31, 2017 2:11 pm

    Sadden A lost for all.

    In my Prayers

  17. Agneta December 31, 2017 1:03 pm

    I never met the man – but I still mourn him. So sorry for your loss ! The world needs men like him !

  18. lilbirdz December 31, 2017 12:48 pm

    His story sounds like a life well-lived. We should all be so blessed.


  19. Amy Barbe December 31, 2017 12:21 pm

    I am sorry for the loss of this creative, generous man. My condolences to his family and friends.

  20. Cheryl N. December 31, 2017 12:18 pm

    Bill is now soaring with the whoopers that he loved so much. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  21. fisher December 31, 2017 12:15 pm

    Rest in peace big Bill

  22. Sally Swanson December 31, 2017 12:03 pm

    I remember seeing his video “C’mon Geese” years ago and was so taken with it. He did a lot in his lifetime and it was all good! My sympathies to his family!


  23. Janet Westlake December 31, 2017 12:02 pm

    So sad to hear of this great lost today. Bill was and still will be so inspirational in so many ways to many. Thoughts are with the whole Lishman family and extended family of close friends. RIP Bill.

  24. Marian December 31, 2017 11:58 am

    My heart goes out to Bill’s family and all who loved him.

  25. Grandma December 31, 2017 11:51 am

    My condolences to his family and all that knew him in his lifetime for his accomplishments.

  26. Meg Lunnum December 31, 2017 11:15 am

    So sad.

  27. Marilyn December 31, 2017 11:13 am

    So sorry to hear this news. Many important accomplishments in his lifetime. God rest his soul for his next journey. Thank you for sharing, Joe Duff.

  28. Catherine Wohlfeil December 31, 2017 11:10 am

    I’m so sorry to hear this… He was a good “flock leader”…..

  29. Ginny Eastwood December 31, 2017 10:54 am

    A wonderful man, so sorry for your loss.