A Little Bit Western


Duck, Duck, Goose!

May 5, 2015

The return of the Canada goose is the quintessential sign and sound of spring as they honk their way home for the warmer weather. Canada geese are large and somewhat brash, they attract attention in parks and cities, they have parody social media accounts (i.e. @ReginaGoose on Twitter) and the Canada goose has even been blamed for air plane crashes. It seems they are always in the news, including a recent account of the ‘Costco goose’ who chose to get cozy near a Regina Costco store. Ironic, a goose setting up camp just meters away from a store that sells down-filled duvets and vests from their feathered brethren.

Here at the Lonesome Dove Ranch, we have our own goose stories. While I can’t say for sure that it’s the same pair, there is a pair of geese that migrates to our yard every spring, and persistently proceeds to nest. At best, they have entertained us with many a spring time adventure, and at worst, their nesting has been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Canada geese enjoy nesting in bales, and fortunately for these fine birds, we have a lot of different options for them to choose. It would be so nice if they would choose wisely for once. The first year the geese descended, they circled around, honked, and settled on the top bale of a straw stack that was two bales high. Out of all the bales in all the land, they chose the most precarious bale on which to nest. We gave them a wide berth, leaving the stack alone. We had really only built that particular stack in that spot to offer a bit of windbreak for our house so it was no hardship to leave the bales alone and we wished them well. As the story goes, the wind can blow fiercely at times, especially in our yard, and one day I arrived home to find the geese waddling around, confused, staring at the bale which had once housed their family but now was toppled over on the ground, having blown over in the wind. Their luck, it seemed, was bad.

Dejected and nestless, the pair of geese turned their attention to the heifers which were sharing their same home base. There was much posturing, pestering and territory-marking between the geese and the heifers who were pretty curious about their new playmates. After lunch one day, I was watching the bizarre and humorous dance between the birds and the cattle. The geese would hiss and flap their wings when the heifers would get too close, and the heifers would playfully trot off. Sniff (cows), hiss (geese), honk (geese), runaway (cows), repeat.

While watching, I noticed a nearby heifer who had laid down in a small hole, and was unable to get up. While it doesn’t happen often, sometime cattle will lay down, get over-centered and be unable to rise again, which can quickly lead to injury or even death. Being lunch time, my Other Half had just happened to stop in at the house and he and I ran out to rope and turn the heifer upright again. Indirectly, our tiny gaggle of geese had saved our heifer’s life.

The next year, the pair returned to try their luck with goslings once again. They dutifully tended to their nest, this time choosing a much wiser location than their previous one. Again, we left them alone and looked forward to seeing a clutch of goslings following behind mama later in the season. At daybreak one morning, I was enjoying a cup of coffee and staring at the geese nurturing their eggs when out of the corner of my eye, a shadow appeared. Flying up high, it grew larger and got close enough for me to see that it was a Golden Eagle. It majestically soared through the air, spotted the nest, flew down, plucked the nest and contents neatly off the bale and flew away with a nice light snack between its talons. For the second year in a row, we were dealing with these melancholy fowl.

Our geese returned for another year this spring, although for the last several seasons, they try to fly under the radar. No more saving lives, no more impressive acts, no more shenanigans… maybe maintaining a lower profile will result in some offspring one of these years.

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