My imagination and curiosity arise with the sun as the darkness is lifted in the early morning hours. I await the arrival of the players, and one-by-one, or two-by-two, they invariably appear. The usual cast is 4 swans (an adult pair new to LOW and their two juveniles born last summer), a familiar duck pair, and Suzy Q and Mr. T, a Canada Goose couple that chose to take up residence in my cove long before I had.
In my prior life, I lived near a pond around which I frequently walked. Whether the geese were present or not, I saw evidence of their existence everywhere. And I looked on in disgust; I despised geese. Now, however, I look forward to the daily visits from Suzy Q and Mr. T, much to my poor husband’s dismay. While I still don’t particularly care for their prolific output of waste, I am enamored of this pair.
I notice how much more Suzy waddles as the eggs develop insider her ever-swelling body in the spring; I wonder if she feels the same sense of anticipation as I had while I was pregnant with my daughter, Alle; and, as I had, if she looks forward to feeling like her old self once again and being able to walk without a struggle. I observe as Mr. T so valiantly defends her and her nest site, when their offspring from last year (that refuse to leave them) get too close; I observe as he stands sentinel with his watchful eye while she nourishes her body and cargo; I imagine the wild tales they could tell–of their harrowing escapes from danger and the circumstances of their injuries so readily apparent. I wish they could tell me, as I would gladly listen and marvel at their experiences with them, as I had with my great-grandmother-in-law.
How do I know it’s the same pair each year? Like us, they wear their age and their battle-scars outwardly. Suzy has a permanent injury to her right wing, which doesn’t allow it to fold smoothly. She is easily recognizable, as she also swims in a tilted fashion to the left side. And poor Mr. T sustained an injury to his foot sometime between December and February. Although this foot injury is new, I know Mr. T from an old scar he bears. So there they are, both showing their years. It doesn’t matter to them however; they are a bonded pair. And I admire this bond.
Last summer, I went on an actual wild goose chase after one of their goslings that had been limping. Although my efforts were relentless for two days, I was unsuccessful in capturing it. On the third day, Suzy and Mr. T arrived without it; something else had captured the gosling. I also watched in horror as one of the goslings disappeared into the depths of the lake, most likely taken under by a turtle, when the family was crossing the cove. I wonder how long it takes Suzy and Mr. T to notice; I wonder if they grieve.
Suzy and Mr. T nest on a vacant lot a few doors down from my home. Already, she has diligently made her nest and is incubating her eggs. I anticipate what’s to come, if history will repeat itself. Suzy will sit vigil on her nest for approximately a month, with Mr. T at her side, and then suddenly they will disappear. I will visit the nest to find it empty. A few weeks later, I will welcome the site of Suzy’s new family–she will be acting as the engine, with a line of goslings swimming behind her, and Mr. T as caboose. My cove then becomes their weekend home, as during the week there is no sign of them in the area. Since I see the family at various locations around the lake from my boat, I surmise that it takes a week to “cruise the lake” at goose-speed. I look forward to their weekly visits and to seeing how quickly the goslings have grown.
I marvel at the “family man” Mr. T is! He is the more watchful parent, chasing after the uncooperative strays. He is the parent who stays with the smaller goslings who aren’t as adept at climbing in and out of the lake. It is Mr. T who will peck at Suzy if she is too busy eating to watch the kids, seemingly instructing her to “pay attention!”
So I decided to go on a proverbial wild good chase…for more information about these creatures, which I’m sharing now:
The female goose is called a goose; the male is a gander
Average life span is 10-25 years
In flight, a group of geese is called a skeen or a flock
On the ground, a group is called a gaggle
They do not mate until after their 3rd year
Only the f emale builds the nest and incubates the eggs
They mate for life, but one will typically choose another if the first dies
Goslings leave the nest for their first swim within 24 hours of hatching
If the mother isn’t there for them to see, they will bond to whomever
cares for them.
They have been reported flying as high as 9,000 feet and as fast as 60 mph
The incubation period is approx. 28 days
Adult Canada Geese have 13 different calls
Several families of geese living in the same area may combine to form a creche to care for the goslings
One year old geese are called yearlings
I certainly understand why geese are not welcomed by most residents, and I must admit that once Suzy and Mr. T’s “kids” begin to look and act like adult geese, I, too, would prefer to admire from afar. As a matter-of-fact, Bella, the permanently injured swan relocated to Chicago, is being cared for by Bob Knox, whose entire business is focused on geese control! Bob rents and sells swans and border collies to hotels and residential complexes to assist in ridding the properties of geese. Because our lake has so few swans, though, and food is plentiful, our swans aren’t as geese-aggressive as they would be in the “wild.”
If you happen to spot Suzy Q, Mr. T, and their new family, please introduce yourself! Like the “Brunch Bunch,” you now know how to recognize them! And if you hurry, you may find them in the Hillside/Washington cove; most certainly, you will find me, in the early morning hours, observing and enjoying it all.
Until next time…It’s another beautiful day at the lake!