Last night I caught the Canada geese learning to fly.. I had seen them experimenting a few times but the hot, still weather we have been having was not conducive to flying. This afternoon the wind got up and for a couple of hours mum and dad put the young ones through their paces. There was definitely a feeling in the air that it was time to move on and when I looked for them this morning they had gone and the garden seemed very empty without them.
In many respects we have the ideal habitat for geese.. A small pond with no competitors other than the occasional heron, a large closely cropped lawn that enables them to see anyone or anything coming from a distance. An adjacent field with an abundance of long grasses, and some trees for shade when it gets too hot.
I learnt that Canada geese mate for life and its possible that the same couple come back year after year. They are impeccable parents sticking close to the chicks all the time they are with us, standing up to anyone or anything that gets to close, and standing no nonsense from the chicks who obey every instruction. If another goose comes close the male becomes quite aggressive and if the chicks are old enough they line up behind the male in a show of solidarity and defiance. Their threat displays involve head pumping, bill opened with tongue raised, hissing, honking, and vibrating neck feathers as well as arching the back and flapping wigs. On one occassion I witnessed the whole family, led by the male, see off another goose who decided he also liked my garden.
The only downside of having geese in the garden is the enormous amounts of waste they produce. It doesn’t smell but it does attract flies in hot weather. I have to think of it as natures process for recycling.