This was the fourth year in a row a Canada goose couple had chosen to nest on Green Heron Pond. Dan and I had tried to discourage them to no avail, so finally we gave in and accepted the fact that they would nest by our dock for the third time. (Their first nesting site had been across the pond at a neighbor’s shoreline- in the open. That did not work well and predators got the eggs.) From that experience the couple came over to our side of the shoreline and picked a spot near the dock under a frail old willow. We had left this sad little tree standing as it had been housing for a Downy brood, a Redbelly couple- until Starlings moved in on them and lastly Chickadees- mid season looking for rental property it seemed. Seems the Canadas decided this same spot would provide an unlimited land view, water escape and some protection due to the strategic tree trunk placement.
It did for two years and they raised a total of 7 goslings in those two seasons. However sometime between last nesting season and this spring the little tree gave out, crumbled and fell. The geese were undeterred and Momma built the nest with surrounding material-sticks, soft bark, leaves, grass and her own feathers. This year there would be 7 large chalky colored eggs nestled in the carefully constructed imprint at water’s edge. But still it had been a bit of a rocky start as the geese had seemed a uneasy and more aggressive this year. I had been more careful going about the yard- them sometimes hissing and nodding (maybe shaking their heads) at me.
At 3:30 this morning their unease was warranted and they were on full alarm. I took flashlight in hand, headed downstairs, turned on lights, opened the door poised to scare off a raccoon or possum only to find a honking goose standing over the nest and the other in the water also excited. The geese couple soon calmed down and I headed back up bleary eyed to possibly go back to sleep. Not to be… about fifteen minutes later there was such a commotion that I looked out to see a very large winter coated coyote loping across the lawn headed for the goose nest. Again I headed downstairs to shoo it off as coyotes do not like human confrontation or lights as a rule and thinking it had probably just had an egg for breakfast and would be on its way.
I trudged back upstairs- but no sleep was coming when I heard the mournful honks of a goose. Venturing from my covers, I put on my old robe and headed down in early light only to see Poppa goose- one egg crushed, 2 missing, 3 still tucked in tight and the last one rolled down to water’s edge. The lawn was covered with feathers like autumn leaves scattered in the Kansas breeze. Momma Canada had defended her eggs to the end. Two sets of coyote tracks and the progression of feathers told the story. The gander was powerless to help her when they came.
Today the silent sentinel continued to stand guard and wonder and wait for his mate. Some lessons at the pond are harder than others- there are things worth defending. I will reflect on this for a long time… Life on Green Heron Pond.