My life with Canada Geese

In the flyway, I saw geese as population, as statistics – an appropriate way for a demographer to view any group.  As a retiree, back in northwest Montana, I saw geese as neighbors on about 3 ½ acres of pond.  Watching individuals, and then families, began in 2015.

Goose appropriated the island for her nest, and Gander made certain nothing shared it.  In later years, mallards, teal and even coots would share the island’s safety for their nests – but in this first year, all other species were regarded as competition.  When larger geese wouldn’t leave, Gander would come by the house, to get me to stroll along with him, making the interlopers uncomfortable, and regaining his domain.

Once, two bald eagles flew over her nest – and Gander took to the air to lead them away.  I suspect they were more interested in finding road kill deer – but Gander was no less heroic in luring two predators away from Goose and her nest.

A week later, 7 goslings followed their parents into the pond.  Gander led, Goose followed, grazing incessantly to make up for the starving time spent setting on the nest.  The day came when she led the goslings right up to the spot where a bald eagle was eating a dead muskrat.  The egalitarian parenting ended – five years later, I have never again seen Goose lead the flock – Gander leads, Goose brings up rear guard. 

The parents molt as the goslings grow from fuzz to feathers, and then flight training begins.  The first year, the straight drainage canal seemed an adequate place for takeoffs – on young goose at a time.  The second year Gander discovered my floating dock, and would hike his pre-flight training goslings onto it, where they would jump from the dock to the water, learning landings before they learned takeoffs. 

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