Monday, March 16, 2009

A GANDER TAKES A GANDER

One of the benefits of living beside a river is that you never know who’ll drop in for breakfast. This morning it was a Canada goose. Actually, it was the male of a pair of Canadas which lately have been hanging around the pool directly in front of the cottage. There are lots of geese on the river, but now that the nesting season is here, territories have been chosen and are being ardently protected—particularly from other geese. The female of the cottage pair never actually came up on the bank this time around—at least she didn’t while I was watching. So I snapped only her handsome and vigilant mate’s portrait. They do visit as a couple most days, though the male is always the first up the bank—acting as scout, looking around, making sure he and his lady love can dine on the scattered cracked corn in peace and safety. He may take half an hour before giving the all-clear sign; sometimes he simply stands around and looks about, then goes back down to the water without taking more than a cursory peck at the available food. Obviously, something about the situation this time around failed to meet his approval—though whether from a security standpoint or simply a matter of current dining companions, I’m never quite sure. The geese and squirrels are, at best, uneasy meal-mates…squirrels being a bit too frolicsome and irreverent for the more stern and haughty Canadas. I have no doubt the geese couple be back sometime before the morning ends. They usually make at least one feeding excursion early in the day and another in mid-afternoon. Last spring, a pair of Canadas—perhaps even these same geese—nested on the lower end of the island next in line as you travel upstream from the cottage. There are three islands in a row along this section—sometimes four, depending on whether a certain cut in the downstream-most island, separating the two portions of river, has washed out or filled in following the most recent bout of high water. All these islands are long, narrow affairs—a hundred yards or more in length and perhaps twenty yards across at their widest, and covered with timber. The one located across from the cottage is either the first or the first and second, depending on the state of the above-mentioned cut. This spring, the cut is open and water is flowing between the two stream arms. But last spring the cut was filled and closed with debris. I’m sure all this is confusing. Perhaps I should have exercised literary license and eliminated this on-again, off-again island count. But, if I’m going to be honest and accurate in these reports, I thought it necessary to include something about the changeable nature of even the land itself. A riverside life is never static. Given a bit of luck, and judicious bribing with cracked corn, I’m hoping my Home Pool Canadas will select a nesting site within easy watching distance…a back corner of the yard would be great. I always get a kick out of seeing the fuzzy goslings. And between now and then, while the eggs are being sat, I’ll do what I can to provide the parents-to-be with a safe, comfortable home…a well as a good place later on for raising their brood.

11 comments:

Jenn Jilks said...

You know, Jim, it is "necessary to include something about the changeable nature of even the land itself."

This is what makes country life so very interesting! The lake, even while frozen, is very interesting. (Who know what Langmuir streaks were?) But the land changes, too. We have clover and moss growing right beside frozen ground, with water pooling on top. The ground sheds its meltwater into the lake right now.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I hope they stay, Scribe - I love goslings too and they will make lovely photographs for your blog. There is something about living on a river which I love. We occasionally get the odd Canada Goose in the field - they are grazers and eat the grass when they are here. They are a magnificent bird and I understand they are exceedingly tough to eat so they are quite safe when they visit.

forest wisdom said...

Grizzled,
I enjoyed the description of your islands in the stream, as well as the vists from the geese. Someday I will live in similar physical serenity. One might say, if one used such language, that you are a "blessed" man.

Peace and hungry geese to you.

Rowan said...

It sounds as though you live in an idyllic place. Canada geese are handsome birds, we get them here in UK and there are a good many on the river at Bakewell - shall be taking my 3 year old granddaughter to see them and the mallard, coots, moorhens etc tomorrow armed with some bread to feed them. Sometimes you get lucky and there are more exotic visitors, I saw a mandarin duck last time I was there. Hope you get your easy to watch nest - be nice to see photos of the goslings.

Lynne said...

Whenever I read a post about Canada Geese I suggest a favorite book by Bernd Heinrich called "The Geese of Beaver Bog." I enjoy all of his writing but this book is special for those who appreciate Canada Geese.

There is a heron rookery on an island in the Mississippi up here that I like to visit in the spring. The shape and size of that island is different every year. The herons should be back here soon!

giggles said...

Such a proud papa you are....

The gander? Male posturing, I'd bet! (tee-hee!)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…
The land and the river are just as much a part of my riverbank life—characters in the story—as the birds and beasts, bugs, flowers, toads and trees. All changing, playing off one another, and, to my way of thinking, all to be included if appropriate.

To understand any means understanding the whole—though I don't think any of us ever grasps the entirety.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…
Me, too! I see goslings around every year, but I'd like to "raise" (with a little help) my own brood.

Now I don't want to make you think less of me, but since we're being truthful…I must defend the Canada goose's standing as dinner fare. An old, tough goose (just like an old, tough chicken) is, well, tough. Edible, but tough. But a young, middle age, or otherwise tender Canada goose is really delicious. Rich, dark red, as tasty a bird as ever graced your palate. I've never hunted geese. But I like roast goose. I have goose every Christmas (along with a ham), usually store bought and farm raised, unless I can talking a goose-hunting friend into parting with a wild bird. But I assure you no Canada goose will ever come to harm hereabout on my watch if I have anything to say or do about it.

I

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Forest…
I do, and I am, my friend. This home and life here along the river—for however long it lasts—is a gift I couldn't have dreamed of four years ago. I try as best I can to honour and enjoy it every day, which is one of the real reasons I began this blog, in order to share something of what I have with others.

I know you understand this. And understand, too, what such a place can mean to some of us.

I hope with all my heart you find your own such haven.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…
I've said it before on these pages—if only there were brook trout rising in the pools this riverside cottage would be idyllic. But that was in jest. The truth is, it is, indeed, more idyllic than I could ever have wished for. Not a dream come true, because I never dreamed for anything so fine. But truly wonderful.

And I promise, if "I" have goslings, there will be photos!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

You know, I've read almost every book by Bernd Heinrich since his first one, Bumblebee Economics, which came out in the late-70s. Yet somehow I've missed the one on Canada geese. I will try and pick up a copy and read it.

If you have the time, you might like reading a post I did in January, BEGUILED BY GEESE (I'd furnish a link, but haven't got around to learning how—sorry).

No heron rookery near here that I know about, but I do have a buzzard roost (turkey vultures) directly across the river from the cottage. They've been winging in from their winter vacations for about two weeks now. I'll write about them before too long, I'm sure. I've become quite fond of my buzzards, proud to have them as neighbors and fascinated by their habits.