Every year, anywhere from the first week of January to the first week in March, we are honored by a visit from a pair of Canada geese. They build their nest on an island in a pond adjacent to our property. The hitch is that it is only an island if it is not a drought year and the water level has come up sufficiently. Otherwise it is just a large clump of dirt in the middle of a huge hole in the ground.
Coyotes like to make a meal out of geese, so it is critical that there is a moat around their birthing grounds. We never know whether there will be enough rain to fill the hole. The Canadas send scouts ahead to make sure it is safe to camp here for the spring and summer. We got lucky this year. The pond is a pond and the geese have arrived.
We think the arrivals are a pair from previous years because when they came close to the back yard they did not fly away when I approached them. I tossed some cracked corn for them, but they didn’t seem especially interested. That will change.
There is a regular routine to building trust. Even though these geese probably have some memory of us buried deep in the back of their little bird brains, they are still cautious at the outset. As time passes, they come closer and enjoy the food we provide.
We will see them both floating on the pond for several weeks. Then, we will only see the male. That means Mother Goose is setting the eggs she has added to the nest one at a time in those weeks that we saw both of them.
The countdown begins.
It takes 21 days to hatch a goose egg. So, three weeks from the day Mom disappears—give or take a couple of days—we can expect to see little fuzz-balls floating on the pond. I say give or take a couple of days because the female has to put the kids through basic training. First she has to waterproof them so they don’t sink. She does that by applying goose oil to their fluffy little bottoms. That done, it’s off to swimming lessons.
I’m sure they go through Survival 101, which consists of Mom telling them that if some critter arrives that is larger than they are—and, at this point, that’s just about everyone—they should skadaddle as fast as their tiny web feet can propel them.
As Tarzan must certainly have said to Jane, “It’s a jungle out there.”
As the weeks go by they will grow larger and larger and come closer and closer to us for their twice-daily rations. By July they will be milling right around our feet, with Dad hissing at us. He knows we’re not going to hurt his babies, but part of the Dad Code requires that he hiss a warning, just in case.
Then, one day we will hear honking. It will mean Pop Goose and the little ones—that are no longer little—are in flight training to prepare them to fly away and join the larger flock to get ready to migrate.
No more than two days later, they are gone without a goodbye or a honk of thanks.
It is always a sad day and the best we can do is hope they will come back to us next year.
Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick
Steve Liddick – Author of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”