INTO THIN AIR OR MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS?

It’s déjà vu all over again.

Last year we spent weeks watching a pair of geese nest on the tiny island of our pond.  When we went out to our land at the time I calculated the young should be hatched – they were gone.  Vanished.  We feared predators.

This year the geese were back.  (See my post, Getting Goosed )

So when we saw the little family with its five goslings on Monday, I was over the moon.  By the time we went out yesterday I felt like their godmother.  I wanted to knit them all little sweaters.

No sweaters will be necessary.  The whole goose family was gone again.  Vanished.

..Farewell

We got to know them well as they again guarded their nest.  We didn’t crowd them, watching from a distance and watching them as they flew over our barnyard every evening to Smith-Conley Creek on the other side of the road.  It’s not a very big creek now, but was once responsible for carving our little valley.

We would watch our geese fly over there and listen to the raucous gabbling as they met with more geese for a confab. Then within the hour, always just before dusk, they would fly back to our pond.  I would hear their wings beat low over our head, watch them turn to line up their landing with the pond, disappear behind the trees and then – swoosh – the sound of their water slide landing.  (I always like to think that is the fun part for the geese.)

One evening last week just before the goslings hatched, they headed over for their regular rendezvous.  At the usual time, only one goose returned.  It waiting on the pond for about 10 minutes then flew back to the creek.  We heard a short but intense honking session.  Then both geese passed over head and settled on the pond for the night.

Adding human characteristics to our neighbor geese, we imagined that one of them had been having too good a time at the gathering spot.

“Time to get back to the nest, Gary.”

“Yeah, you run along, Gertrude.  I’m right behind you.”

Exhausting her very brief patience, Gertrude had flapped back to the goose pub to retrieve her Gary.

...Engraved by Edward P. Cogger (ca. 1864-1867)

Yes I know it’s probably nuts.  But it is the basis of a fairy tale we constructed.

Both years, after the geese disappeared, we searched the area, but there was no sign of violence.  The pond has been receding to its smaller summer dimensions, and the edge is mud that holds tracks well.  All the tracks were made by deer.  No raccoon tracks.  No coyote tracks.  No sign of a fight in trampled grass and weeds.  Not so much as a feather.  When we see the remains of crows and turkeys, there are always lots and lots of feathers.

So here is the fairytale part.  It turns out that Doug and I both hatched it as we mourned and sleuthed.

Perhaps there is a little goose gathering across the road.   A hangout, if you will.  Doug and I monitored Smith-Conley Creek for the DNR for several years, and it’s got a pretty good population of invertebrates.  It’s muddy banks are thick with marsh meadow grasses, which geese love.

We cheered ourselves as we drove back to Madison last night with the thought of a Make Way for Ducklings parade.  A little further research tells us that after hatching their young in a site picked for safety, geese often travel on foot to a site with better grub.

I want to believe it.  Good luck to you, goose family.  Hope to see you next spring, Mom and Dad.  Next year, we’ll upgrade the neighborhood with some winter wheat so we can offer you not only good breeding grounds but also good feeding grounds.

Meanwhile, we may have lost five goslings.  But there were five little blue eggs in our bluebird house!  We’re a little worried for them.  Our early and warm spring is about to take a nasty turn to windy and rainy.  This can be hard on the bluebirds if their nest gets wet.

Updates to follow.

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2 replies

  1. Know how you feel. When Hooty does not come home for a day or two I wonder how many other ladies he may have or what predator he may have run into. It’s always good to see him in the usual roosts. Lately he has added new roosts closer to the nest and we search him out. I think the geese are testing new ponds and rivers keeping gosling travel distance in mind.

    • Yes, we have become quite convinced that they must have moved across to the other side of the valley where the stream is. They had been going over there every day, so it was obviously a place they like.

      Later today we’ll be going out to the land, and we will check on our bluebird family. Hoping for good news there. We’ve had a real rough patch of weather for our feathered friends — down to freezing and lots of rain and wind.

      But today the sun is shining, and we feel hopeful.
      Denise

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