Sunday, May 10, 2009

Canada Geese: Safety Patrol

I was rowing beside the Group Camp (Segment 10) where I first saw the goslings, keeping an eye out for them although I suspected that they were long gone to a more secluded place – probably up into the section beyond the bridge connecting the Nature Center to the Group Camp. Nothing … but not surprising.

I rowed down to the bridge. A single goose was swimming back and forth just on the other side of the bridge, It wasn’t the casual ‘swim across the lake’ type of swim. It was swimming back and forth in a clearly purposeful fashion. I could see another pair of geese a little further beyond the bridge also swimming purposefully and honking. I was a little puzzled because I couldn’t see any reason for all the fuss.
I continued to the end of the bridge, turned around and worked my way back to the end of that segment and turned into the bay (Segment 11). I almost didn’t row this section; dark clouds had appeared and the wind had picked up quite markedly. But since I had extra meters already, it was an opportunity to really pick up additional distance.

As I entered the bay the pair of geese swam past me on the other side of the bay, honking and dipping heads. I wondered if they were a breeding pair. When I continued to the end of the bay, they turned, swam back to the point I had just passed and climbed out onto the bank. I wondered if they planned to nest there although this would be a really bad spot because people fish from that point quite regularly. The pair stood there honking and fussing. It was puzzling but …

I rowed back down the bay and turned to row back down the lake (Segment 12). I’m not really sure why I hesitated. I think I decided that I wanted to try and get a couple of shots of the pair on the point. I started to photograph when something made me look off to my right.

Not one pair but two pairs of geese with their goslings were swimming across from the bridge into the bay. I didn’t get a count of the goslings with each pair but it was a delightful sight.

They swam off across the bay.

When the families were well across the bay, the pair that had stood guard stopped their honking and head-dipping displays on the point, slipped back into the water and swam after them. It appears that the single goose had been playing some lookout function and the pair that took up position on the point – honking and dipping heads – was communicating with the parents to warn of my presence and then giving the all-clear so that the families could swim safely through.

I’ve heard of Canada Geese with goslings bringing them together and sharing care and I’ve seen several families hanging out together on Briscoe Reservoir in Walton County. But this is the first time that I have seen geese other than the parents apparently participating in the care of the families by acting as lookouts to provide safe passage for the families.

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