For seven years, we have watched Goose and Gander nest on their island in the pond, and successfully raise a hatch of five to nine goslings each year. I gained a lot of respect for the Gander when two eagles flew over, and he took to the air to distract them from the nesting goose, flying over the house where he could dive into friendly territory. His duties, in general, consist of patrolling around the island and intercepting threats. She took the physical damage of sitting on the nest for weeks, poor nutrition, and general physical decline accompanying the success of each new hatch. Last fall, as the flock flew away, we wondered if she would make it through the winter.
She isn’t back this Spring. Though it is hard to tell lesser Canada Geese apart by markings, she had recognizable posture after the hard years. Gander is back, and working at teaching the young replacement that he knows the safest, most defensible, absolutely best place for their nest. She is willing to accept his choice of our pond, but continues to look at every possible nesting site. The two Goldeneye ducks that nest alongside the old goose nest watch in puzzlement – life once went predictably, Goose would nest, and they would nest close by, where Gander would control access by water. Now, instead of a responsible goose, ready to start laying eggs and nesting as the last of the ice goes out, the little diving ducks have to wait on the new bride – who seems to be more interested in courtship than the responsible efforts needed for the next generation. Gander, lacking words and language, is more challenged than I have ever seen him.
He came back to the pond, leading all of last year’s hatch – I guess the first tip off that Goose was gone was that this year they haven’t been hanging around. I suspect step-mothers that are your own age are as hard to take for Canada geese as for people. It is going to be interesting to see how much Gander shares of the decision-making process. He demoted Goose from leadership when she led the little flock to an eagle who was making a dinner of a dead muskrat . . . though there is something unusual in seeing Gander get airborne to threaten a grounded eagle as the goslings flee back to the water.
I kind of miss the old goose – but I look forward to watching Gander’s future life.