No, not another article on Michelle Bachmann, but on the wild geese, whose behavior this year seems connected to overpopulation and diminishing habitat. Canada geese no longer bother to migrate past the Mid-Atlantic states, where they find mild winters and plenty to eat. And so a bird of great beauty, once hunted almost to extinction, threatens to overrun its food, its housing and its welcome. Our two small ponds have traditionally drawn two breeding pairs, as geese are both monogamous and territorial. Some of our neighbors, tired of the excrement, have put wire mesh across their ponds, and so this year we have three families plus a number of bachelors (or bachelorettes) who have no communal role and nowhere else to go. Although the monogamous geese have always fiercely protected both mate and brood, the cramped quarters have produced a new level of bickering and bullying, particularly against the single members, who are gratuitously attacked and put to flight. One flew hissing for me yesterday. I ducked, and we have kept our distance since.
The parents are now teaching the first batch to fly, and it is wonderful to watch the goslings tentatively flap their feathering wings. It’s also time for them to go. To paraphrase the proverb, “Don’t set foot too frequently in thy neighbor’s [yard], lest he become weary of you.” And indeed it is harder to love your neighbor when he craps all over your lawn than it is when he is flying north, in a majestic V, at 4,000 feet.