Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Story and Photos by Susanna Hamilton

What a beautiful and thrilling adventure our Wetland Wander at Stewart Pond was this morning! As all wanders begin, we gathered around dressed in our finest wet attire of rubber muck boots and good humor to venture forth into our wildland - urban interface.

We saw a wide variety of plants from wild cucumber and meadow foxtail to White man’s footprint and tansy ragwort. We oohed and aahed at woolly bear caterpillars and crane flies. We trekked further north on the site until we arrived at the ponds and paused, binoculars to eyes, as we watched coots and green winged teal, mallards, shovelers, buffleheads and dowitchers swimming and feeding. And of course, the ever present Canada geese - nesting Canada geese.

Back pond, about 100' from the nest.

Now here’s the thing about nesting Canada geese. The females, once their eggs are all laid, spend most of their time sitting on the nest, incubating those eggs. The male, however, usually hangs out nearby to offer protection from predators. And in today’s case, humans. 

So a funny thing happened.... A male goose charged toward our group of adventurous wetland wanderers and put us all on guard. This rather protective father not only stuck out his long neck, mouth agape, tongue waggling, wings flapping, he went for the pants leg of one of our trusty guides. I must say that it was a stunning display: Rick's leg extended, Mr. Goose's wings beating furiously, and shutters fluttering as shocked on-lookers weren't sure whether to rush in and save Rick or keep taking more pictures.

After the initial melee, attacking Rick's boots again.

After a rather short (although it felt longer) time the father-to-be let go of Rick’s pants leg and settled into preening as Rick backed away commenting on the great science behind the protective display. Curious species that we are, shutters continued to flutter. You could almost hear those famous words, “All right, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close up.” (Sunset Boulevard, 1950)

Still agitated, but isn't he beautiful!

Well, our wandering wildlife-watching troupe proceeded along our walk, attempting to leave the nervous father to his mate and soon-to-be hatchlings, but alas, the goose was not done with us. For the next half hour this persistent feathered-friend followed us as we sauntered forth conversing about Stewart Pond and its host of birds and animals, fungi and flowers. And at times, both random and unexpected, another of us would fall victim to the bites and slaps of this tenacious father. 

And a not-so-funny thing happened.... This male goose followed us along the path, out to the road, up the street and into the parking lot, a long way away from his mate and incubating offspring. Upon our departure he remained in the parking lot as new arrivals pulled in to the wander the wetlands.

A long way from his mate and incubating offspring.

I hope our feathered friend finds his way back to his family, safely and without further incident with our species or other predators. I hope the goslings that hatch will be healthy and live long lives providing us humans with wonder whenever we hear them in the sky above and pause to watch them fly by.

In the meantime, please be aware of your surroundings and know that nesting season is upon us. These graceful and beautiful creatures that share our wildland-urban interface are looking to protect their families and would very much like to be left alone. If you happen upon their nesting site and catch them by surprise you may be the recipient of their attention. In most cases when you move away they will cease their protective displays and return to their post. 

Then again, as one fellow mentioned on our walk today, “This goose might just be bored and looking for a little attention.” Perhaps, a lot!