Perspective: A Mother Goose Tale

Classic Canadian Goose

Now this is a hot topic. Especially if one lives on water. One might ask, “who cares?” But now that you have asked, let me write a few words as subtly as I can.

The geese we normally see around here are Canadian Geese. They are a large water fowl, larger than a duck and smaller than a swan, but all three are of the same genetic family. In this family, if one is not a goose or a swan, it is a duck. For what it’s worth, ducks, typically are the smallest of the three, swans have the longest necks, and geese the longest legs. Swans and geese tend to mate for life; not ducks. Geese tend to return to the place of their birth, and nest in the same place every year.

Of course, you know that a goose refers generally to both male and female geese, but when used to isolate the female in the definition, it is called a gander. Swans are deemed the most beautiful of the lot (much like the 1 percenters in this country). Ducks, smaller, and seemingly less intrusive and cute, are ignored in this country (much like the middle class, if there still is one). And, well geese, even though majestic if you bother to look closely, well, they are deemed troublesome and intrusive (I’ll leave it to you to think about to whom in this country we might refer as an analogy).

When one thinks of them as food, well, we wouldn’t think to eat a swan, and eating duck, though like goose meat, we seem more comfortable eating duck than eating goose (not unlike the effect of calling pigeon, which is a dove, squab, rather than pigeon, on a restaurant menu[1]).

But we must give the goose and gander their due. For without them we never would have “Mother Goose” to read to our kids. And lest we not forget one of the earliest references to egalitarianism between men and women, “What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander”. This oft used phrase (often, ugh, by lawyers) loosely is derived from the 1600’s epigram “as deepe drinketh the Goose as the Gander[2]”.

Pivoting only slightly, I refer here to the FACT[3] of global warming that influences the routes of many migratory birds and their annual migration rhythm. A lot of migratory birds change their routes, shorten or completely cancel their journey as a result of changing temperatures.    Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the migratory pattern of the Canadian Goose in central and upstate New York, including the “sanctuary city[4]” of Syracuse.

But I digress from my story. At the small lake on which I live, as global warming affected the number of migratory geese making this lake their nesting home increased, so did the noise, the fouling of the water by goose feathers and, well, defecation, and the intrusion on land from the same and other factors. As with many upstate lakes, those in power deemed it appropriate to curtail the goose population by “oiling the eggs” in the nesting season, such that the mother goose could no longer recognize her eggs, and abandons the eggs before hatching. Certainly, some could, and do argue that this is a humane way of getting rid of the geese.

One year recently, without my permission, or even asking, the oiling squad came onto my property and oiled the eggs of a goose pair that has been nesting on my property for over 10 years. No one could understand my rage. No one in the lake association who argued that “we are just protecting our lake” could understand my belief that in nature (as we humans have affected it), it is just as much the lake of the geese, as it is “ours”. The oiling crew have not come back, but thankfully these two proud geese have. And again, this year, I will have the pleasure of seeing in nature, the hatching of the 4-5 fuzzy goslings, as they peck away for food on my lawn (which I choose to share with them), and track their journey on the lake into the fall when they are full grown (those that are not taken by natural predators like hawks), and have the place in nature that nature intended.

This is not a story about geese.


Post Script

The night I wrote this, 11 goslings were born to our two goose families. On Mother’s Day, they and their parents were nowhere to be found. This morning, their parents could be found, wandering around the nests, seemingly searching. The problem with the abuse of power is the resultant distrust it breeds. Did nature take them all (never happened before). Was it nature, or some other influence? There is an ominous sadness.

[1]  By the way, The Stoop Kitchen regularly will feature squab on its menu, an homage to the beautiful pigeon that is perched on our logo.

[2] John LylyEuphues and his England, 1579/1580

[3] Draw your own conclusion about and for whom this reference is made.

[4] A sanctuary city is one with a loosely defined policy of looking the other way on illegal immigration.