It’s a wild life in Babel.
Where did Sammy come from? It puzzles us but hardly seems to bother Sammy. He just stretches his fuzzy, stubby little wings and continues eating tender shoots of grass and the more succulent bugs he finds. He seems quite content with his surrogate parents, Maude and Melrose.
We know where Harriet, Harry, Heloise, Hanna, Harvey and Henrietta came from. We watched the nest being built by the pond, counted the six eggs that were produced by Maude–after some sort of private collaboration with Melrose–and observed her regimen of caring for the eggs while keeping them warm with the soft down of her belly. It hardly mattered if it was Maude or Melrose sitting there, we knew better than to go over and ask silly questions. Nobody needs to be pecked by an over-protective Canada Goose.
After a boring month of egg-sitting through April, our new wild life emerged in May as the H’s pecked their way out of their shells. What is amazing is that all six decided to leave their protective shells on the same day. How Maude knew to keep rearranging the eggs to produce this simultaneous event is one of the mysteries of nature.
The day in early May that was the birthday of the six little goslings gave us reason to celebrate. Maude and Melrose preferred the muddy creek water to champagne and, as stated before, they have never been good for an argument. And certainly not now, when they are busy protecting six little bundles of goose fuzz.
It was after the second bottle of the bubbly that we started naming the offspring. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to determine the sex of a newly hatched gosling on its first day? Make it doubly difficult—even with 10X binoculars—when you are more than 45 metres (about 160 feet) away, above and on the other side of the pond. Since the sexual persuasion thing would, in due time, only be of interest to another Canada Goose, we were rather arbitrary in choosing boys or girls names. Henry was hardly going to be traumatized to find out later in life that he had the equipment with which to lay eggs.
It was fascinating during May and early June to see how the family interacted with each other and their environment. Their creek area is just a small oasis surrounded by massive pollution control centre construction, road construction, heavy traffic along the lakeshore and the humans and their dogs on the north side of the pond. Despite the threats, Maude and Melrose constantly paraded their family, on land and on the water. Maude is always in the lead with Melrose chasing the laggards. The muskrats, mallards and herons who share their creek cannot hold a candle to the dignified orderliness of the family.
It was the noisy pets of the humans who must have earned the enmity of Maude and Melrose and they found a particularly vicious way to get even. They must have seen how obediently humans bend to scoop behind the yappy beasts. A few nights, they took the family along our sidewalk, and did their daily dump for us. Without owners to do the scooping, that sidewalk became something of a hazard to unwary humans.
The biggest surprise was the day that Maude and Melrose had the family out for the daily regatta on the pond and I suddenly realized that they had an extra five goslings in their herd. We had seen another family with five goslings further up the creek and when we checked we found them without their hatchlings. They were just moping around. Maude and Melrose had obviously usurped their parental role and added the new five to their family. We hastily checked some names and came up with Gwyneth, Garth, Garret, Gertrude and Guy. Swimming across the creek, they made a formidable flotilla.
We checked with people purporting to be more knowledgeable of the parenting practices of Canada Geese and we were informed that the geese are not capable of comprehending the concept of day care. We were told not to be concerned: the loser parents will go off and produce more goslings of their own.
But I gave up later when I counted and recounted the goslings who are growing in size as well as numbers. Sammy was number 12 in the litter. Where he came from, we have no idea. Clifton Webb and Steve Martin can make their movies about families being “Cheaper by the Dozen” but Melrose has proved it.
The wild life goes on in Babel.
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