Monday the duck and goose nests were all pretty much static. All the prospective mothers were pretty laid back. They got off their nests to eat and I was able to do the morning and evening chores. On Tuesday when the mothers jumped off their nests for breakfast, I heard an egg peeping in one of the tire nests. (Eggs start talking to their mothers a day or so before they hatch, so you can have some pretty noisy eggs. It is a strange effect.) Wednesday, brought changes, Mommy didn't get off the nest, but was standing in it doing something. There was a tiny wet black thing wriggling in the bottom of the nest. I couldn't see well enough to tell what it was. On Thursday morning there were two new little goslings--one male and one female. On Thursday evening we had to move the tire the nest was in so the little goslings could get out to get food and water. I told Mack to be sure to wear gauntlets and goggles because I expected the mothers wouldn't like us messing around. He shrugged me off, saying he didn't need them. Well, if he didn't need them neither did I. So, out I went without them. Well guess what--that mama goose grabbed my right wrist and hung on for life while she flogged me with her wings. It hurt quite a bit and now I have a bloody, ugly sore place on my wrist and some nasty bruises. OOOOO, those geese were upset. We got the tire out! Every time we go out to check on them, the little ones are eating and drinking and growing! It is so hard to imagine how 30 days can make such a difference in an egg. Those little guys are so cute with their down and rubbery beaks and feet. No, don't try to hold them or even get close to them or you will pay! Am I angry, no, not at all. The geese were being good mothers and taking care of their babies. I was being stupid! No, there are no pictures of the babies. That wasn't possible, at least not yet. I don't want any more welts and I don't want to have to go out and buy a new camera! Th pictures of nests have no babies in them. Oh, yes, by the way, there were new goslings in another tire nest this morning!
No, even though it is the Christmas season, I am not writing of angel wings although they are probably flitting all around us. I am writing of bird wings--specifically the wings of geese. We were walking our dogs down below the dam of our pond when we heard wings beating--flap, flap, flap--dozens of pairs. We looked up and our gaggle of Pilgrim geese (and the one lone Canada Goose, LG) were flying from the top of the hill where we feed them down to the pond. They actually looked like their wild compatriots! They were soaring and circling and letting us know in no uncertain terms that they could fly away if they chose to do so. They circled around us a time or two as they circumnavigated the pond, then turned east and landed, all facing the same direction. Each landing is simply beautiful! They change the orientation of their wings, tuck down their tails, spread out their wide web feet and land on their heels and then settle into the water. A little V wake stretches behind each heel. The landings are pretty quiet unless they get to close to each other which causes a bit of a rumpus.
This is such a change of behavior for them. They have been trundling up and down the hill all summer and fall because the goslings couldn't fly. Now with the change in the weather and the winter solstice behind us, they are flying AND the males are starting to fight. That also involves a beating of wings and loud honking. The rest of the flock circles around and cheers on their favorites. It is a noisy, rowdy show. Sometimes other ganders will join in and 5 or 6 will be fighting at once. They tend to grab each others necks, flap their wings and try to push their opponent over or out of the way. The winner always stands up as tall as possible, flaps his wings to show how big and strong he is while honking loudly. When they are in the pond the ganders swim around with their tails in the air and a crook in their necks. It seems to me that they are starting to get ready for spring and are showing off already.
Note: This is an older picture--no snow and only a few geese at the upper end of the pond. It was my opinion at the time that LG was teaching our domestic geese to fly--now they all fly and all 42 of them make a considerable noise!
As many of you know, Mack and I live in the country and have quite a few animals, especially birds. I love watching and learning from them and am always amazed by the things they do. We have geese, ducks, chicken, guinea fowl and pea fowl. This summer we have suffered serious attrition in all our flocks. We have lost so many guineas, I have lost count (especially the females when they are on their nests). We have also lost ducks, hens (no roosters), and geese. We have been attributing these losses to coyotes, neighborhood dogs, and owls.
On Monday afternoon, Mack yelled at me from the back of the house. He was standing there shaking his head in absolute astonishment. He had been shoving decking up onto the second floor deck we are building when he heard a commotion and went around to the back of the house. There he saw what looked like a large cat with its jaws around the neck of one of this summer's geese--a little female we call one of the lawnmowers. (We have been letting the birds into the yard in an effort to protect them. We have a four foot fence with electric wires at the top and bottom.) This little goose had always been in the yard working away mowing on the days we couldn't get the lawnmower out because of the rain. The "cat"and Mack both looked at each other in surprise and shock and then it shot across the yard and over the fence into the soybean field. The cat was about the height of our small standard poodle with hair that stuck up on its ears and a bob tail about 3-5 inches long--a bobcat! A bobcat has been preying on our birds this spring and summer! Who would ever have thought it! I guess we know now where the OU Bobcats got their name!
As you probably have gathered, our little goose didn't make it. Everything about her looked fine, but she wasn't able to breathe properly. We think she probably had a crushed windpipe. Her sisters and brothers stayed with her in the shade for a day, but she passed away during the next night. I hope the bobcat doesn't get shot. He has to live, too. I would be just as happy if he didn't come into our yard and hunt about 6 feet from the back door.
The weather is so beautiful I can't resist writing about the joys of spring. One of my favorite joys is all the new life--flowers, green grass, blossoms on the fruit trees and the new babies. Our birds have been busy for weeks, setting up nests and laying eggs. We had nine of our domestic Pilgrim geese on nests, but we are down to eight. Something got the eggs in one. It is probably just as well because the nest was a panopoly of eggs--goose, duck, and guinea. I don't know how the mother would have managed if she had managed to hatch the eggs. She is busy setting up a new nest. We had two duck nests, but both have suffered complete destruction--one appears to have frozen, the other was attacked by crows. We found broken eggs all over the place. The crows pick up the eggs in their beaks, fly up into the air, drop the eggs when they reach a certain height and then swoop down to eat the contents. I have tried hard to counteract this by craftily getting the birds to nest in covered spots. The crows are not stupid and they still get in when the mothers go for food or drink.
Two nights ago, I heard peeping when I went into the chicken house to check on one of my setting hens (there are two of those). There propped up on a corner of the nest box was a delightfully cute little peep, pumping his little wings (I think he is a baby rooster--he is the light colored one with a dark spot on his head) and getting ready to jump off and hob nob with the big birds. He and his mom and the two other little chicks, along with the other eggs were quickly moved into a brooding box I have which is warm and safe from predators. The little family is settled in and gives me great pleasure. I love watching them. I could watch them all day. Momma is busy showing them how to drink and scratch to find good things to eat and they think they know everything. When she makes a certain low perk sound, they jump back into her feathers and are gone from view in an instant. She is a wonderful mother, especially considering this is her first brood.
The peacock, Morgan, is strutting around like he owns the place. He has been fanning his tail desperately and shaking his wings trying to attract the female's attention. Unfortunately, she doesn't seem too interested and there are no eggs-yet.