I have a love/hate relationship with Canada geese. One goose by itself I can handle, but as a group…oh, my! The noise! The poop! Perhaps I should say I like a goose, don’t like flocks of geese.
When I first started coming to Grenell Island, it was rare to even see a duck, let alone a goose. Back in the mid-1970s, gulls were the only prevalent water birds. I remember in the mid-to late 1980’s, a small flock of Canada geese swam into the cove like visiting royalty. We felt honored and privileged. We moved softly, quietly hoping not to scare them off.
Times have changed.
Often we come home and find 90 or more geese on our front rock. No hushed reverence as we unceremoniously shoo them off the rock. It’s easier to chase them away in the spring, when the goslings are tiny fuzz balls. Sometimes, all I have to do is open the front door or stand at the window and, once the parents see me, they are on their way. But after their brood has morphed into gangly teenagers, it’s a different story. The parents are fearless. Their attitude is like, “Are you kidding me? You can’t scare me. I have nine teenagers. Nine!” (I’ve had teenagers…I get it.)
It takes a lot of shouting and arm waving to get them to move at all and once they reluctantly get into the water, they stop, turn and wait for me to leave. As soon as I take one step toward the cottage, they are climbing back on the rock. Even if I rush to shore again, they wait. They know I’ll leave eventually. I usually have to throw a pinecone or two to let them know that I’m serious. One neighbor resorts to using her stern “teacher voice;” another uses firecrackers.
Okay, so I’ve established that I’m not a fan of geese flocks defiling my front rock and making a poopy mess of our lawn.
Then there is lone goose.
Despite what I’ve read about geese taking care of each other on their migratory trips, it seems to be a different story during molting season. Geese who are hurt or injured are chased away from the flock and left to fend for themselves. This is the second season our little rock has been the refuge for a lone goose.
Last summer, we had a goose with a broken wing that spent a couple of weeks on our front rock. The other geese stayed away while it was there. So it was more than welcome. I looked online on how to help a goose with a broken wing. The only advice was to catch it, take it to a wildlife center and have it euthanized. Several summers ago neighbors got together with kayaks and fishing nets to catch a duck with a broken wing and took it to a wildlife vet. That was hard enough. I can’t imagine trying to catch this goose. It was huge. I couldn’t get near it.
Lone Goose #1 with a broken wing disappeared for three or four weeks and I thought it was gone for good, but it returned again shortly before we left for the season. The feathers on its broken wing had fallen out or broken off…but otherwise it seemed healthy. But as winter came on I figured it would become a meal for our island fox.
This year we had another injured goose. Lone Goose #2 had an injured leg. It spent several nights on our front rock. During the day it would swim in the water and feed, but late in the afternoon it would flutter its wings and hop one-legged up the rock. When other geese came to the front rock, it would flap and scoot and hide from them, usually behind the hot tub. Each night it would get closer and closer to the cottage until eventually it was in front of our porch.
I read online that if a goose could still fly and still had one leg to stand on it would probably survive.
I was pleased that Lone Goose #2 felt comfortable on our little rock. It tolerated us walking by and didn’t seem to get excited. One morning I noticed that its hindquarters were bright red with blood. That morning it didn’t fly off to the water to float and feed in the bay. It kept scooting up toward the center of the island. It had been almost 24 hours since it had had any water. That couldn’t be good.
I filled a dog bowl with water and thought I would place the bowl nearby. As soon as I bent down, it freaked out, flapped, hissed and flew off. We didn’t see it for 24 hours. Two days later, it was back in the bay again for a couple of days and swimming by itself. Lone Goose #2 never came back to our little rock. Neighbors told me they saw it and occasionally it would stand on one leg and sometimes they would see it trying to stand on its bad leg.
It’s been over three weeks since I’ve seen Lone Goose #2. Hopefully, my neighbors were right. Perhaps it’s fully recovered and has rejoined a flock. Perhaps I’ve shooed it off the front rock, with 49 of its loud, messy friends. If that’s true, perhaps its convalescence on our rock contributed to his recovery. Whatever happened, I hope it’s doing well.
By Lynn McElfresh, Grenell Island
Lynn is a regular contributor to TI Life, writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. You can see Lynn’s 70 + articles here – as she helps us move pianos, fix the plumbing and walk with nature… As Editor, I have the pleasure of seeing “what’s next,” first!
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