Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
Six goslings now follow the pair of Canada Geese that some weeks ago took up residence on our backyard pond. The birds hatched this past weekend. Last evening the family was on the grassy edge of the pond, four goslings picking bits of vegetation from the yard. While most songbird young are raised on insects -- high in protein and fat -- regardless of adult diet, geese young and old are vegetarians. The gander stood on guard last night, as ganders do, erect, watchful, unmoving as his young fed nearby. Two of the goslings were tucked beneath their mother's wings until she decided it was time to retire, standing and sliding into the water. Her mate and babies followed. It's hard to follow them visually when they reach the far side of the pond, in the weedy growth there. They seem to be roosting on a small hummock beside the larger hummock that held the nest. I assume they spend the night in a dry place. It is early afternoon as I write; the birds have yet to be seen today. I'd like to know where they spend their time when we can't see them, and what they do. We count the young each time they appear, hoping that none are taken by the coyotes and other predators that rove the neighborhood. Last summer and fall the pond dried to a depth of about four inches. The recent rains have filled it again, the duckweed that plagues us has yet to bloom, and the pond is beautiful. We have a nesting Hooded Merganser and a nesting Wood Duck, both yet to hatch their broods. It's only going to get better. We moved here from a home deep in the woods, the pond a deciding factor for me in choosing this home. It gives us all of the pleasure I anticipated. The photo was taken of a goose family that chose our pond two years ago. The goslings were being sheltered by their mother during a rain.
Note: I wrote this two days ago. Since then the geese have totally disappeared, not saying goodbye, not leaving a note. I assume the eight of them were not coyote dinner. The meganser seems to have hatched chicks, retrearting with them into the swamp where they are invisible. I have no idea what the Wood Ducks are doing. An oriole sings lustily from the yard next door. We're offering oranges and grape jelly, so far with no results. My expectations, obviously, have been unrealistic.
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