Wasn’t it just Springtime? The signs were all around.
Trees and perennials burst into leaf and the fragrance of their blossoms filled the air. We had the whole summer to look forward to…lots of time for everything…all those picnics, short road trips, family gatherings, weddings, showers, transplanting, building that new deck. No need to rush, right?
Suddenly summer was full blown. The signs were everywhere. The sky was the limit.
Days were long, gardens grew, baby birds learned to fly, everything was alive. It seemed like there was still lots of time for completing all those ‘to do’ lists.
Even grain fields were amazing as I watched their growth and changes.
And there were the wonderful walks in the summer rain.
This year I loved it more than ever, especially the smell of it. I called it a taste of heaven, probably because I miss my sister & my best bud so much and somehow letting the rain wash away my tears, became the important therapy I needed. I walked in it as much as possible hoping the memory will carry me through the winter.
My yard was a hub of activity and I loved having several species of birds around. Including my notorious crows, Cheech & Chong! What a pair they were. Although they got on my nerves at times, and I believe they chased away some of my robins, I couldn’t help but like them. They were extremely smart and they knew me. Somehow we connected and I accepted having them around. They were bullies at times and we had several disagreements about that. I actually miss the pair of them. It has become very quiet here now. I wonder if they return to the same place in the spring. Guess I’ll have to wait on that one.
I even gained a few Hummingbirds around my front deck this year. They loved my bright Hollyhocks in the back but didn’t hang around there too much, and I think it was also because of Cheech & Chong.
These are my third generation Hollies I remember growing all around our yard and garden when I was a child. They started at my Ukranian Grandmother’s (Baba’s) house. My mother grew them and now I have them and have done transplanting , and saved seeds for generations to come. As I have written in so many, or probably all of my stories: My parents are my Wind Spirits. They are close to me always in so many different ways.
Summer gave me long days and evenings with lots of time to walk, reflect and be peaceful. I enjoyed every minute, happy or sad. Whatever my mood was, I found I was able to come home and ‘blog’ my heart out. Thank you to my faithful encouraging readers. You keep me going. I am thrilled that through my writing, your comments have told me I’ve been able to make you feel that you are actually right there in my story with me. How inspiring is that! A writer couldn’t ask for better feedback.
I loved walking beside the lake early in the morning or around sunset and watching the flock of geese that landed to feed and frolic in the shallow water. They were quite playful and shocked me because I always thought of them as very focused and serious. In this secluded inlet, they were relaxed and totally entertaining. I sat perfectly still and observed, not even wanting to distract them with my camera, so I didn’t.
I took time to enjoy colors in the simple things around me.
Before long, however, the days became noticeably shorter. A northern chill was in the air in the evenings. Leaves changed colors.
Everything was ripening quickly, then winding down as its season was coming to an end.
Then the surest sign of all. One my Dad taught me as a child.
“Look to the North, South Paw. The geese are gathering in groups getting ready and soon they will be flying overhead towards the south. It’s time for their great migration. They know when it is their exact time to leave the cold and fly south.” This is what he told me every year about this time.
That was a long time ago, but missing my Dad is still as fresh in my heart as always. I loved the sound of his soft, yet strong voice. I knew I could depend on him. I thrived on his knowledge and experience about everything around us. It was because of him I learned many things about our beautiful, intelligent Canada Geese.
Back to my comment on: “Wasn’t it just spring?” One of Springtime’s most welcoming sign is the return of these geese. We hear them long before they are visible in the sky above. The beginning of a new season.
They never fail to appear. No matter how many seasons we see them, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that each spring their sounds give us a good feeling.
‘Kanata’, is a Huron word for ‘village’ or settlement. The Huron first named flocks of geese ‘Kanata’ because these birds nested and bred close to Aboriginal settlements. Kanata was also the name given to what is now Quebec City, then conformed to the English name: Canada.
Today, Canada geese are established from Mexico to the Arctic. They are loosed and thriving across the land from Canada’s east coast to the west.
Although they start out in large groups, these geese gradually form smaller ones. It may be a family or pairs of several young geese known as yearlings. The giant Canada goose is likely the most known populated water bird in North America. Their wing span can spread over 6 feet & they can weigh anywhere from 20-27 pounds. The only difference between the male & female is the male is slightly larger in size. There are various ‘sub species’, all with the famous neck band but they only weigh in at about 7-10 pounds.
A Gander, the male, will hold the highest rank if he has the most goslings (babies). The more goslings in one family, the bossier, the proud Gander! Hmmnn…Typical isn’t it? LOL!
Now this is where it becomes interesting:
Fights for rank only break out between Ganders if they both have the same number of goslings! Sometimes, 2 year old geese will breed, but the normal breeding age is 3 years old. When this happens, chances are the young 2 year old parents will lose their brood to the older, more aggressive pairs. It may even be their own parents who take their grand-goslings in order to gain the higher rank!
WOW! There is no escaping competitiveness is there?
While in flight, they make a racket! The average Canada Goose belts out about 10 or 12 different vocalizations. This is their way of communication with one another. Their cruising speed averages 30 miles per hour but will speed up to 40 mph during migration. If they are really pressed to reach their destination, they can fly at an astonishing speed of 60 mph!
Geese have proven to be amazingly loyal. If one goose gets sick or wounded and falls out of formation, its mate or one or two others will follow it down to the spot it has landed. They will stay with the wounded goose, protect it, forage for food, often risking their own lives, for as long as it takes to recover or until it dies.
Canada geese that were once banded, have recorded ages that vary from 12 to 80 years! One pair was actually recorded as having been together for 42 years!
I hope they put a diamond in that female gooses band!
Although it’s familiar that geese mate for life, research has discovered that the occasional divorce does occur. Most geese will select another mate after a partner’s death, while a few will simply return to the same nest alone, for many seasons.
These remarkable birds do not change their route from year to year. A mated pair will always return to their same nesting place. The young learn the familiar route from their parents and once flying on their own, will still return to their birth locations, year after year.
Typically, the female chooses the nesting site. A favorite is atop a muskrat house or beaver dam, close to, or on the water. She will accept man made nests, or reuse abandoned ones built by owls, crows or hawks.
Then she redecorates. (Of course she does!)
She is resourceful and uses whatever materials are close by…at the local waterside Walmart…twigs, grasses, moss & leaves. Later, she will line the nursery with her own down from her chest. She is planning ahead with good intention as she picks the spot for her nest. While sitting on her eggs, she positions herself so she has a good view in case any predators try to approach the nest from any side.
It’s a simple request made by the female: A room with a view! I totally get that.
Now, the proud Gander doesn’t sit on the eggs, but he stays close and fearlessly defends the nesting area. He decides how much territory should be privately owned. If he senses danger of intruders, he will spread his wings, hiss and create havoc until he drives that would be threat, away.
A typical Canadian Mother Goose lays her cream colored eggs anywhere from March to early June. She will lay one egg every other day up to 12 eggs. The normal count is 5 to 8 eggs. Not necessarily: Cheaper by the Dozen!
The first eggs are pushed aside and left camouflaged until all the eggs have been laid. It doesn’t matter if they are cold. The female will begin lining the nest with her down for comfortable insulation when she is about half way through her laying. Only when all of her eggs are laid, will she begin incubating so the eggs will hatch at the same time.
While I was doing the research on the Canada Goose, I was amazed at how every detail has been taken care of by both male & female and their intelligence, loyalty & commitment floored me!
Hatching of the eggs takes a further 25-30 days. Mother will stay on the nest the entire time, except for brief food, water and bathroom breaks. Raccoons will go after the unattended eggs if allowed an unguarded moment. I could only imagine the wrath of Mama Goose, if that happened while she stepped out for her much needed break and Dad was on duty!
There would be no living with her!
I often took the children to Wascana Park while we lived in Regina, Saskatchewan, to feed the geese. One day, a little one got left behind and was frantically calling as it tried to climb up the bank of the lake. I picked it up to see if I could find its family. Out of nowhere an adult goose appeared in an outrage! It hissed and bit at me & knocked me down with its wings & didn’t stop until it had knocked me into the water! We learned never to mess with the little ones again! They have many human-like traits. They are loyal, protective of family & each other and are gifted with an impeccable memory. That goose came after me every time it saw me that entire season! I had no idea which baby I had picked up, but the adult goose remembered.
During this incubation time, the adults molt their flight feathers and are unable to fly. However, the male’s sole purpose at this time is to stay right by the nest to defend it. These feathers grow back just in time to teach their young to fly for their fall migration.
As I see it, God kind of took away his keys so he isn’t a flight risk ???
The proud parents celebrate the goslings and lead them to the water to swim within the first 24 hours of birth! They must gain a pound a week to reach a stable flying weight in the next 2 months. The geese feed on tender marsh grasses, pond weeds, cattails, berries & salt grasses. They are observed by the thousands in fall, foraging fields for grain or corn kernels.
The parents are fiercely protective of their young as anyone who has ever tried to snatch one, or gets too close, will find out as I just shared. If there are several geese families in the area, they congregate & share taking care of the goslings, adding strength and safety in numbers. The large birds do not have many natural enemies besides hunters but the goslings can fall prey to owls, hawks or snapping turtles.
When the great migration is in progress, thousands upon thousands fill our sky, flying day and night. This usually happens from the middle of September to early October. Before starting out they stop several times to feed themselves well before their long, difficult journey. They migrate in family groups & the new goslings stay with their parents for one full year.
Their distinctive V shape formation is unique and for logical reasons. They keep this shape while flying thousands of miles at a time as a way to assist one another. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the flyer behind it. This allows them to cover greater distances than if flying on their own. Usually a female is the lead point.
(Makes sense…a male would never ask for directions.)
Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.
The males have the important part of guarding the rear. They honk continuously to encourage those in front to keep up their speed. When the lead point gets tired, it changes position & another flies to the front and takes over. No slackers anywhere in this species.
Canada geese are a proud and magnificent bird. We are blessed to have any opportunity to enjoy them. From generation to generation, year after year, we watch the flight of the beautiful ‘Kanata’ Geese. The sound of their honking is always a sign that summer is nearly over. The formation of honking geese flying overhead always confirms that a season has passed and another will fill it’s place.
As we respectfully watch them leave, we automatically think of spring and what a welcoming sight it will be to see and hear them returning from the south, Somehow they bring a message and create the feeling that all is right with the world again.
God really is the amazing artist and He created them with an amazing instinct, beautiful markings, strength, courage and has given them the seasons and their place and purpose under the sun. Just as He has made people, there are no two ‘Kanata’ Geese exactly the same. He knows every feather just as He knows the number of hairs on our heads. We are all beautiful and were put here for a purpose.
Let’s enjoy our Canada Geese by respecting their natural habitats so that generations who follow us will be able to enjoy them too.
As I watched this small group feeding by the side of the road, I knew any moment they would depart and it both thrilled me and saddened me. They had a mission to complete. Suddenly, it began. Just like that. One began to lift off and the rest followed.
I hollered: “Bon Voyage, my friends!”
That was all they needed.
I watched them until the sky became silent and they vanished into the clouds. I felt my Dad watching over my shoulder and telling me:
“Before you know it, Summer Wind, they’ll be back again.”
I smiled and got into my car. I know he’s right.
And thank you for for reading. Hope I was able to share some new facts about these beautiful birds and their amazing life styles. Perhaps when you see them again, you’ll see them just a little bit more as family groups, as new parents & a species who are loyal to each other until the end.
I’ll be back soon with more Autumn memories. Until next time,
This is Memory Lane @ www.pagesofmymindblog.com