Over the last two weeks we have observed the resident Canada Goose couple searching the shoreline and neighborhood yards for nest real estate. Last spring they opted for my neighbor’s yard and the nest almost made it to the 25 day mark before being robbed by a predator. (We never saw or heard who but supposed it was a couple of foxes or possums working in tandem.) So, we were not too excited when they began to take a very close look at a spot by our dock. First of all, who wants to be accosted any time you want to sit on the dock and secondly after last year we felt this would be a venue a predator would return to.
While the Canada couple vacillated on a nesting spot- our yard or the neighbor’s yard, we enjoyed watching other migratory waterfowl come into the pond. The little Ringnecked ducks varied in numbers, one day 8- the next 20. A Gadwall couple appeared, then a Pied Bill Grebe couple diving closely by the shoreline before beating a hasty retreat anytime I stepped out on the deck. The Great Blue Heron also came to fish, however he kept some distance between himself and the geese. Most recent was the colorful and stylish Wood Duck couple appearing on the pond- flying around the cottonwoods, landing like a songbird on the high limbs possibly scouting out their own nesting area? But the geese had finally made their decision and it was to be our yard…by the dock.
Things had been going well with the Canadas these first few days and it became apparent that there were 3-4 eggs in the nest. Momma Goose, for all her lumbering weight on land was gently stepping around the large eggs, carefully rolling them and covering them with downy feathers she had pulled from herself. She tucked the eggs in and settled herself time and again throughout the days, only leaving the treasured array of sticks, mounded earth and feathers to get a drink and maybe nibble on something. We had gotten used to their presence and fortunately they were used to ours so we could sit on the dock and they could keep us in their sight.
Even the nights had been quiet with no neighboring dog barks or warning honks from the geese until 4:00 A.M. this morning. Geese less than 40 feet from the house in the dark stillness of early morning have a tendency to bring one to immediate alert and wakefulness… Stumbling down the stairs, I grabbed a flashlight and panned light back and forth across the yard towards the dock. Both geese were at high alarm, Momma was standing by the nest-the gander moving up and down the shoreline. I tried to set off the motion light and took one more look out expecting to see a fox only to realize I was seeing a coyote approaching the goose nest at a trot. Shining the flashlight in its eyes and then going out on the deck sent the slinking predator on his way. I called up to Dan that there was a coyote in the yard and his comment was that it probably had its own young to feed.
I did not see the coyote again, but the geese sounded another alarm- I opened the deck door, hollered and then trudged back to bed- not sleepy, flashlight at the ready… At sunrise I went to assess the yard, geese and nest only to find one cold egg about 15 feet from the nest and Momma back on the nest, the sentinel gander by the shore. Apparently the lights had initially scared the coyote away and I only chanced to see it as it made its way back in an attempt to pick up its prize.
I believe we now know the identity of last year’s wily predator; one who has a long memory and one we have probably not seen the last of. Nature is a great teacher and I love observing it- experiencing it here on the pond. But Nature’s lessons can be poignant and difficult to witness at times. I will think of the abundance of Canada geese in our area, I will think of hungry kits in a den and I will hope for fuzzy goslings to appear on the pond ready to swim and learn to fly.