After the warmest February and the coldest April on record, the Canada geese are behaving oddly. By now (late May), we are usually playing host to three or four pairs of geese that have nested near our pond and hatched goslings. Instead, we have more than seven pairs of geese on the pond and no nesting activity. One pair that arrived ahead of schedule did nest, very early, but lost their eggs to predators and didn't bother to try again. I suspect that this year many geese were unable to nest successfully because of unseasonable cold and lack of food. During April, snow and ice repeatedly covered up the grass (including a two-day storm that dropped three inches of ice pellets in the middle of the month), and the pond froze-over four times. The last snowfall was April 28.
The other strange thing that the geese are doing is perching. Normally, when two males have a territorial spat, the loser will fly off and land on water. This year, the losers are flying upwards and landing on our roof. I suppose, without flightless goslings to protect, they don't need to stay low. Anyhow, the "thud" of a goose landing on the roof has become a familiar sound. Sometimes the victor follows the fleeing goose onto the roof, and then we can hear them running around up there. We just hope they aren't damaging the shingles.
A pair of geese with 8 goslings walked to the pond last week, but the parents didn't like the envious attention their offspring were getting from all our childless geese, and quickly went away again. The next day, we noticed a lone gosling paddling around with a single goose in tow. We think that the family of 8 got split up: the father went off with 7, and the mother stayed behind with one. This lone gosling seemed demented. It did not follow its mother, or any other goose for that matter, and zig-zagged around the pond as if it had a faulty guidance system. Out of the water, one minute it was happily pecking at blades of grass, and the next it was running full tilt in any direction that took its fancy. The poor mother goose looked worn out from trying to keep up with it. This state of affairs went on for several days until a childless pair of geese "adopted" both the single mother and the gosling. Now, the little one has two mothers herding it around and an adoptive father standing guard, and it has calmed-down.
I was watching the new family feeding on our lawn, and feeling a warm glow that things had worked out so well, when I noticed that the male goose was doing that head-bob that means he's about to take off. Sure enough, he flew, his mate flew, and then the mother goose flew after them leaving poor baby alone on the ground. My heart nearly stopped, but the gosling just ran for the water and in a moment its mother came back to find it. This urge to fly seems to happen to the adults at least once a day, but I no longer worry that the gosling will be permanently abandoned. Pretty soon the geese will begin their summer molt, and then they'll all be grounded.
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