Perhaps you remember the last time I had a close encounter with the large gaggle of domestic swan geese (Anser cygnoides) and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) that thrives here at the lake. They are year-round denizens of the area, and mostly they stay within Sunset Bay, my favorite part of the lake and home to my favorite pier, that marvelous wooden structure that offers me a most relaxing and meditative experience no matter my mood.
A week ago as I took a walk in the early morning light, I chanced upon the entire group of three dozen geese. They had taken up positions along the concrete path that circles White Rock. In fact, although I didn’t realize it at the time, the spot they chose offered an uncanny prediction of things to come.
Some slept, some merely rested, some ate, and some milled about as though trying to decide what to do with the morning.
A large portion of the gaggle, perhaps 15-20 geese, eventually moved onto the path in a slow parade. This has the unfortunate effect of blocking a great deal of foot and bicycle traffic. I was rather pleased to see the majority of folks slowing down and winding a safe path through or around the large birds. (See the end of this post for a clarification on this.*)
I stood and snapped a few photos, then I turned the camera off and simply enjoyed the sights and sounds of these raucous fowl. I lost myself in their antics, their honking, their challenging those who came too close too quickly.
When I felt refreshed, I moved back toward the lake and away from them.
Some minutes later, after a brief commotion while the separated group again made its way back across the path to join the others, the entire mass began heading in my general direction.
Little time passed before I found myself surrounded on all sides by a gaggle of some three dozen geese. Some found places to settle down and others enjoyed a bite to eat
One portion of the crowd noisily walked right at me, however, and I eyed them suspiciously. Having not forgotten the last time such a thing happened when one of the largest males challenged me for my position, I stood upright while still snapping photos. My intent was to make myself large enough to be more intimidating, thereby hopefully being more trouble than was necessary. I stood motionless and prepared to retreat should they wish me to relocate. But they had no such intentions I quickly discovered.
I stood in quiet stillness as they stopped at my feet. Had I dropped my hands to my sides, I undoubtedly would have bumped the heads of several geese who stretched their necks up and began a boisterous plea for food. Apparently, my camera was an unknown and seemed like a possible treat. Each time I moved it from side to side, their heads followed, they reached up as if trying to snag a quick taste, and they moved in a wee bit closer.
“I don’t have anything for you,” I replied to their constant entreaties. My tone was hushed, subdued, non-challenging. “Really,” I continued, “I haven’t a thing for you. This is just an old camera. You wouldn’t like it.”
A cacophony of shrill voices filled the air as they begged me for something I did not have. And they watched the camera with undivided, unmitigated intent.
Yet all things end, something I profoundly believe, and so the feathered mendicants realized I either had nothing or would not share. They finally turned their attention elsewhere, a slow movement of large creatures passing me like trickling water in a calm brook. Heads bobbed up and down while feet padded through the grass. Within but a moment, I once again stood alone.
There could be no denying my joy at the experience… not to mention the joy at not having to run from a gaggle of geese to ensure my own safety.
* As I said above, “I was rather pleased to see the majority of folks slowing down and winding a safe path through or around the large birds [as the gaggle poured across the path].” Regrettably, not all people were so kind or attentive, and some even demonstrated blatant cruelty and disregard for the geese.
One such man riding a bike toward the fowl and me began taunting the animals as he approached. By then, I stood in the middle of the path near the geese. I watched him with fierce attention.
Too many birds covered the right side of the concrete walkway. He would be forced to move to the left (his right) in order to get around them. His movement in that direction was slow, barely visible, and I realized only too late what he intended to do.
He skimmed by with little room to spare, several of the birds coming all too close to being run over or hit by the pedals. The whole while, the man cackled gleefully at his own viciousness.
And then it happened. He lifted his left foot from its perch and stretched it out toward one of the brown geese standing still near the only place where the bicycle could safely navigate. I had no time to act before his foot impacted the bird and sent the innocent thing screaming in pain as it flailed and careened across the road into the grass.
I found the incident so intolerable that I immediately acted without a single thought.
I spun clockwise and lifted my right arm parallel with my shoulder. That, I knew, would put it level with his chest. He was too near me by then to avert disaster—assuming he even saw what I was doing and understood what it meant.
He impacted my arm as it moved in full swing toward him. My momentum put tremendous force into the strike.
Separated from the bike, he flew into the ditch as his wheeled carriage wobbled a bit before rebounding off a nearby tree. I immediately realized the front wheel had bent.
Whether shock or fear I do not know, but he spoke not a single word as he stared at me. I paused only briefly enough to confirm he had no broken bones and was not bleeding profusely, after which I turned and walked away. I paid no additional attention to him or his condition, and I don’t know where he went after that; I do know I didn’t hear or see him again.
Later when the gaggle approached me near the lake’s shore, I saw that brown goose and the horror wrought on it by the vile cretin who so adamantly tried to harm it.
I’m convinced the wing was broken. I saw it outstretched only once. What I saw was that everything beyond the wrist had been twisted and was pointed in the opposite direction from the rest of the wing.
Since these geese do not migrate, flight is not as critical to them as it might be to other species. Still, the damage was extensive. I can only hope it doesn’t cause the goose prolonged pain or problems. (Note that I did contact the local veterinary clinic that handles wildlife in the area so they would be aware of the situation.)