Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning to Live With and Appreciate Canada Geese -- Guest Editorial

Can we in the North East ever learn to accept and appreciate the peaceful Canada geese as other communities do?
Today, I am sharing as a special Guest Editorial, commentary to this blog from Mary Lou Simms who is a published, syndicated journalist and well respected expert in all things Canada geese.   Ms. Simms is currently working on a book about Canada geese and I and many others eagerly look forward to it.   Sadly, what is true in these particular communities in Alabama is not true in New York City and other locations throughout the North East. -- That only it was. -- PCA

Learning to Live With and Appreciate Canada Geese
                                         by, Mary Lou Simms

Here's another location where geese have been integrated into a community. Star Lake in Hoover, Al., a suburb of Birmingham, apparently experienced a turnaround regarding community geese. It went from trying to get rid of its geese to embracing them. On Sunday I noticed that a new waterfowl crossing sign has gone up, with an illustration of a goose at the top.
Some years back, the community purchased two swans to keep the geese away. Obviously it didn't work because the species, as far as I can tell, gets alone fine.
There are only about 20 geese there now because many geese are nesting. Normally there are from 50 to 75. Because of the physical conformation of the lake, the geese generally congregate in one area. The feces is no big deal so I'm guessing crews clean up after them as part of overall maintenance. It's not rocket science. If you're going to have geese, you're going to have to clean up after them. However, that's a small price to pay for the joy they bring to a community.
There are also unspoken rules of geese etiquette. People walk dogs around the lake but it would not be considered "acceptable" to allow them to chase the geese. I also suspect that anyone caught chasing the swans would be ostracized if not jailed. People leave corn for the geese and many seem to have favorite geese. They feed them for hours on end and it is nice to see. I think we're beginning to see widespread acceptance of geese, even though it is happening slowly, one community at a time.
Gandy and Olivia, "my" geese from another lake about 10 miles away, arrived Saturday without young, so there will be no babies this year. I don't know whether they're nesting in a dangerous location or what but it is another disappointing year in that respect. It must seem odd given the issues in the Northeast that we're upset that there are no goslings at our lake this year while your communities are just trying to keep the geese alive. If your communities only knew what they were missing.
There is also a pair of nesting geese at Star Lake. There is a tiny island in the lake set aside for nesting swans (who didn't nest this year) but a pair of geese has taken over one of the bales of hay. I left some corn for Nesting Dad the other day, who swam over and surprised me by taking bread from my hand. I'm a little concerned about the mate. Why can't he sit on the nest for 10 minutes so she can swim over and get some corn? (Or maybe he did and I wasn't aware of it.)
There is also a goose here that is missing a foot. People feed him separately so he can get some corn. (He is shunned by the other geese, but appears to thrive on human attention.) One resident said he flies onto her lawn every morning and waits until she comes out and shares toast with him. There are many such human-geese experiences.
Aside from these two locations, just down the road at the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, there are also Canada geese, although feeding is not allowed there. However, the vegetation is spectacular, which is the best food for geese. Also within a three-mile radius (of Star Lake and the Botanical Gardens) is Howard Lake, which has a small population of ducks and also attracts geese. The city leaves cracked corn here on a regular basis. Again, because of the physical configuration of the lake, the waterfowl congregate in one spot. A favorite goose here is named Whiteface, a hybrid whose siblings are Canada geese. The last time we saw him ((about six weeks ago), he was headed north, and he is sadly missed. It is funny how attached we get to geese when we start to think about them differently.
 We also try to feed them the right foods, especially in winter when grass is scarce. Corn and grains are wonderful. Bread is fine although I buy the higher grain breads for Gandy and Olivia. I have tried to break them of the bread habit but they seem to love it so I dole it out in small quantities. And I have to admit, I love the feel of those soft, leathery beaks against my fingers.   -- Mary Lou Simms



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