We arrived at the hatchery around 7am on Thursday, April 28, and set up camp under our canopy in rain and 37 degree temperatures. At around 11:10, Mama Goose stood up and jumped for the first time. Not long after she and Papa started calling to their goslings, the eagles at N1 flew over, stooping close enough to the nest to worry us and the geese! Mother Goose came right back and settled over her young until about 12:15, when she took what turned out to be her final jump.
Four of the little goslings wandered a bit before following her off the far side of the nest. Three of them quickly joined their parents, but we couldn’t find the fourth gosling and the fifth gosling lingered long enough that we started making rescue plans. We were thrilled when it finally jumped, but concerned when it didn’t join its parents and siblings right away.
Since we had two missing goslings, David Kester ran over to beat the underbrush beneath the nest. He quickly found one gosling wandering toward the bridge and gently pushed it under the log, in the direction of the rest of its family. Unfortunately, it went right back up the bank and started wandering toward the bridge, peeping loudly for its parents while ignoring their loud honks: a beacon that should have helped the gosling find them. We managed to reunite it with its family after some mad scrambling through the brush, a low crawl across the river bank, a little rock jumping, and a gentle toss into the creek right in front of its parents. This gosling seemed determined to stay with new Papa David Kester: it took two tries to get it back where it belonged!
Sadly, we found the other missing gosling dead. We believe it struck something close to or on the ground after a free fall from the nest. Although we don’t know for sure, we think this was probably the second gosling, which did not reappear after its jump.
White Knuckles, Joyous Reunions
A few things struck us as we watched the goslings prepare for their leap of faith. They were large, inquisitive, highly mobile, and very agile just a few hours after hatch: very different from altricial birds like bald eagles and peregrine falcons, but very important for hatchlings that have to be up and on their feet not long after hatch! We had more than one white-knuckle moment as they navigated sticks, fell in pockets and clambered out of them, and approached the edge before backing off at the last moment. Despite our promise to remain objective, our hearts were in our throats between each leap and the gosling’s subsequent appearance at the side of its parents.
We loved getting to see the goslings in the nest. At times, they seemed curious, apprehensive, and even confused. Two of them appeared to charge off the nest, two tumbled after hitting sticks on their way out, and one exited behind a limb, where we couldn’t see it. The remaining goslings seemed fascinated with each jump, although they tended to regroup in the middle of the nest before venturing back out again and we saw several false starts before each gosling finally committed. We heard Mama and Papa Goose honking encouragement, watched other Canada geese fly by, saw the eagles take a semi-interested pass toward the nest, and enjoyed seeing how quickly scavengers showed up to haul away down with which to line their own nests. A Canada goose nest is clearly the Bed, Bird, and Beyond when it comes to finding high-quality nest bedding for starlings and sparrows!
If you’d like to see the complete sequence of jump events, follow these links:
Good luck, goslings – and note that we have another pair of potential parents checking out N2B! We wondered why another pair of geese kept flying by the nest. It looks like the housing market is hot hot hot for Canada Geese right now!