It is May and my Japanese Cherry tree is in full bloom. The sun rises higher in the sky, it is brighter and warmer, and the trees are putting on their spring greenery. I took some pictures of the cherry blossoms. It has become an annual ritual for me. It signals the advent of spring. Time when the heavy coats go to the back of the closet and I go out for regular walks in the neighborhood. I sometimes see wildlife on these walks. Will I be lucky today?
My walk takes me past a secluded beautiful pond where a pair of Canadian geese have made their home. Being Canadian they are used to the cold and snow. I notice they don’t migrate any more, I see them year-round. Maybe it is global warming, or a yet-unknown-aspect of evolution that scientists have not caught on. Why waste energy flying thousands of miles when food is readily available at one place which is gradually getting warmer? It makes intuitive sense.
There is a wooden bench on the bank and I always sit there for a few minutes. It allows me to rest, observe and photograph the pair. They are used to me, nonchalantly going about their business without paying me much attention. That is as it should be. I don’t want to disturb their regular life. That is not what a good wild-life photographer does. Today I saw two turtles sunning themselves on the bank.
A few weeks back I saw only one goose. My heart skipped a beat. Was the other dead, fallen prey to a predator? My eyes scanned the length and breath of the pond. No sign. Then I scanned the sides. Still nothing. I stood up to take a better look and suddenly, on the bank at the waters edge I saw the second goose sitting quietly on what looked like a nest. The brown feathers on its folded wings blended easily with the brown rush and twigs with which it had made its nest, a very good camouflage. I recognized the bird from the white of its chest feathers.
What a relief and delight! The pair was nesting and mama goose was incubating her eggs. That meant I could look forward to baby geese soon. I took a couple of pictures, one with the pair and the second, zooming onto the nest and mother goose.
I stopped by to observe every day I walked. Each time I found her immobile in her nest while the male stayed close by on guard. Days went by and then weeks. I began to get impatient.
And then one day I saw the nest empty— no geese, but with two discarded eggs. The large white eggs were clearly visible against the brown nest. I saw the pair of geese far away in a remote part of the pond. They were beating their wings and seemed agitated. I thought somehow the geese were frightened and forced to abandon the nest. Why else would they leave the precious eggs? But, why only two and why were they still intact? Wouldn’t a fox or racoon eat them? A three inch goose egg in the wild is a rare find and welcome source of nourishment. I had many questions but few answers. I came home very dejected.
Two days later I went walking and from habit stopped by the pond. To my great delight, I saw father and mother goose with three little goslings. The pair kept the babies protectively between them as they swam. They swam in a straight line evenly spaced as if on parade. Just look at the picture.
I did a little research and could reasonably surmise what might have happened. In the wild, Canadian geese lay on average five eggs in a clutch, but not all are fertilized. However, all eggs are incubated together until the fertilized ones hatch. Only then do the geese leave the nest discarding the unfertilized eggs. So, this time there were two unfertilized and three fertilized eggs—the math adds up. I see the three goslings swimming before me.
I came home in great spirits. I look forward to the babies growing up. It is a pleasure to listen to their vocalizations change as they get older and bigger and observe them lose their yellow down feathers to put on their adult plumage.
Life goes on. One day they will hopefully make their own nests and have babies by some pond in the US or Canada. And someone will get the same joy observing them as I got today.