nature, Uncategorized, wildlife, Wyoming

The Commute

Most mornings and evenings, we are treated to a show in the sky as giant flocks of geese fly over our house.  Canada geese, snow geese and the occasional Ross goose or Greater white-fronted goose.

Sometimes it’s just a few dozen.  Other nights, such as last night, the geese number in the thousands.  Tonight, thousands of them landed in the neighbors field.  I can hear them chattering back and forth, even now, at ten o’clock.  It’s not exactly sonorous, but it’s beautiful music nonetheless.

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Canada geese, nature, photography, wildlife

Common Goose, Extraordinary Species- WPC

WPC - Extraordinary

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “(Extra)ordinary.”

This is a Canada goose.  Branta canadensis.  If you live practically anywhere in the United States or Canada, you’ve seen one of these guys flying overhead or congregating in local ponds.

You might see a bird that poops all over your sidewalks or honks too loudly.  But look beyond the first-world problems and you’ll see an extraordinary species.  Canada geese are well-known for their devotion to a mate and family.  These are incredibly loyal birds, with a strong sense of family.  A mate will place its own life in danger to protect the other mate.  And Canada geese mate for life.  If the mate dies, the surviving mate will go through what you might call a period of “mourning.”  The living goose will isolate itself from their flock for a period of time.  Some will eventually find another mate, but others have been known to remain solitary for the duration of their lives.

Canada geese are also highly protective parents.  Parents will place themselves in danger to protect goslings.

But what astounds me is that when migrating, if a mate or family member becomes hurt or injured and can’t fly, another goose will accompany the ailing individual down the ground and say with it until it recovers or dies.

These majestic birds weren’t always so prolific.  Unrestricted hunting and egg harvesting, bird trade, bird feather trade, and draining wetlands for crop production led to a serious decline of many of the country’s waterfowl in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Canada geese were among those hardest hit.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped waterfowl populations rebound.  Among other things, the law made it illegal to harm or injure a goose or damage or move its eggs and nest without a Federal permit.

Other conservation efforts, mainly centered in the Midwestern states, assisted goose recovery efforts.  And it worked.  In 2000, their population was estimated between 4 and 5 million birds in North America.

Their numbers are so strong that now, seeing them is mundane, routine.  But they are a beautiful species with extraordinary personalities and a storied history.