Canada Geese
The Incident at Toftrees Pond
April 2005


Although the temperature was well above freezing on March 27, most of Toftrees Pond was covered by ice. That morning, various pairs of Canada geese were swimming in open channels, resting on the ground, or standing on the ice.

One Canada goose stood in the center of the lake and was honking for all he was worth. Let's call him Gabriel.

Meanwhile, the goose couple below were swimming in one of the channels. The smaller goose (I presume a yearling) honked back at Gabriel.

Canada geese - parent and child
  The young goose's answer to Gabriel infuriated her companion, who I'll call Arnold.

Arnold exploded out of the water and headed straight for Gabriel, who had other things on his mind.

Canada geese - the jump
  Gabriel calmly noticed the threat of Arnold acting like a GMS (goose of mass destruction).
Canada geese - incoming!
  It makes me wonder how fast a Canada goose can fly.

Right before collision, Arnold turned on the breaks, and you can see Gabriel still calmly looking at the feathered missile.

Canada geese - the crash
  Whether there was contact or a nip, Gabriel decided that it was time to clear out while Arnold was frantically trying to correct his course.

On the other hand, they could have been dancing, but I never anthropomorphize animals. They have enough problems as it is.

Canada geese - the tumble
  Gabriel made a successful escape, and Arnold skidded on his belly.
Canada geese - the escape

From being flat on his stomach, Arnold, with one wing swoop, was again in pursuit.
Canada geese - jump start
  After a few running steps on the ice, Arnold flew after Gabriel.

(I was once asked whether geese could land on ice. At the time I said that I thought so, since I had seen goose tracks on snow and ice. However, now I can say yes very conclusively.)

Canada geese - flying pursuit
  And then it stopped. Whether Arnold had chased Gabriel long enough or whether Arnold realized that he couldn't catch Gabriel, the chase subsided.
Canada goose - end of pursuit

Arnold returned to swim with his yearling in the open channel, and several minutes later, Gabriel flew away from the pond.

If I were to guess what was happening, I'd say that Gabriel was trying to gather the other Canada geese together to resume their migration north. Arnold's yearling was ready to go, but Arnold himself decided that flying was out of the question for that day.

Canada goose - graceful exit

That might have been the end of the story, but Gabriel didn't leave the area. After flying a huge circle, he returned to the pond.

Perhaps he wanted to see whether Arnold would change his mind, or perhaps he decided that Arnold was right: It wasn't time to leave the pond.

Canada geese - the return

[Note: I once called them Canadian geese, but Canada geese is the correct name.]

Photo note: I used a Pentax *istD, with the SMC 400-600mm reflex lens for these photos. I decided to handle these photos as low-resolution jpegs, to limit this to a single page but have a relatively short download time.

My Pennsylvania bird list

A gosling learns to walk   |   75 days with a Canada goose family

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