Canada Geese and Wood Ducks

March 4th, 2007

Fox Haven has had nesting Canada Geese for many years previous to our living here.  I would hear stories from my parents about their arrival in late February, their behavior, building of the nest and rearing the young.  They are delightful to watch, especially with their young going up and down the pond, and learning to fly later in the season.  We have many geese and other waterfowl stop by briefly on their migration routes, but only one pair has ever usually nested here.  I enjoy the geese as much as anyone, but I have to admit, we don’t really want them to hang around.  As beautiful as they are, they also produce a large amount of… you know what.  It’s not too bad with a couple geese, but once the young arrive, typically five to seven, and they have spent 4 or 5 months here, the shoreline of the pond is quite covered in… you know what.  Depending on the type of weather, rain and other soil matter that washes into the pond, the accumulation of organic matter can really add up.  The pond is just under 1.5 acres of water, and with organic matter comes algae.  If the organic matter is not excessive, there is not too much algae that “blooms” as summer approaches.  But the watershed from the 30+ acres of fields above the pond can also allow fertilizer into the pond.  In total, an algae bloom can result that lasts for several months.  Last year the farmers fertilized the fields, and we had heavy rain subsequent to that event, and an algae bloom for 3-4 months.  Herbicides could be a problem, but we are told they don’t use them and the pond appears very healthy.  At any rate, my goals are to try and minimize any runoff into the pond of organic matter from the watershed, and from the accumulation of goose… you know what.   So as much as we enjoy watching the geese, we prefer they don’t nest here.  All we can really do is make noise or walk around the pond to discourage them from nesting.  And that’s okay- they won’t nest if there’s too much disturbance. 

We would prefer the pond be a little cleaner, both for fishing and maybe even for swimming.  If there’s too many geese that live and breed around a small body of water, it may not be safe to swim.  That was not really an issue for my parents before us- they enjoyed the geese for their beauty and the special bond that was shared each year during breeding season.  And I must admit that I would like to share that- to watch the geese rear their young, and see them learn to fly, leaving in late summer or fall to join the larger populations on their journey through life.  But we have a young boy, and perhaps will use the pond more frequently in various ways.   From the research I’ve conducted, the organic contributions of geese have a large enough measure of bacteria that may pose a health risk for humans.  In many parts of the country, geese populations are so large that swimming areas are often closed in summer due to the hazardous water.  So all in all- I will enjoy seeing them when they stop by, and wish them well as they go somewhere else!   Be that as it may… I love seeing them and taking pictures.  This morning I was surprised to see four Canada Geese.  It looks like the first two are the same that have come back year-after-year.  The larger male is alert and watchful, while the female was taking a bath repeatedly.  The two other geese were smaller, possibly related to these, but who knows.  I can tell these geese have been here before, because after taking pictures, I walked down to the water with the Labrador Retriever and the geese simply watched and “honked” at me.  The migrating geese typically fly off when they first see me approaching the pond, but these guys seemed to imply that they belonged here…who was I to disturb their “home”?  I went back to the house, and noticed they were gone a little while later.  It’s time to choose a nest site… they are probably looking at their options like any potential homeowners! 

 Canada Geese - Male as Sentry

Two Canada Geese

Two Canada Geese Swimming at Fox Haven

Yesterday, there were a couple of Wood Ducks swimming near the shoreline.  They are almost always in pairs, and quite wary.  They prefer woodland waters, and are often in the corner of the pond near the larger trees and brush.  They might nest if I put a box up for them, but then again they are probably too skittish to stay around… and if not, well, you know what would happen. :)

Wood Ducks - Male and Female

3 Responses to “Canada Geese and Wood Ducks”

  1. Here in the UK, the Canada Goose is an introduced species. Its population is increasing at alarming rate. From Cornwall to the Cairngorms, there hardly seems to be a lake or a reservoir that the species hasn’t colonised.

    The geese cause a lot of damage to the marginal vegetation, ripping out the taller plants and cropping the grass down to its roots.

    Having said that, I can’t help being impressed by the way the geese protect their young. One parent is always on sentry duty whilst the other shepherds the goslings. They make very attentive parents!

  2. Roger- That is interesting. I know they can do damage here as well, but mostly see that with grass around the pond edges. I didn’t know they could really consume larger plants that way! Also didn’t know they were introduced in the UK. I wonder what their impact is on the native waterfowl. When I was younger, in the 70’s- the Canada Goose was protected because there were not as many around. Now we have overcrowding problems as well. Hunting seasons help in some regions, but in many areas the local townships are unwilling to “manage” the geese. Thanks for your comments.

  3. […] know when they fly in, but it must be before dawn. I enjoy looking at them from afar, but as I wrote last year I’m not a big fan of having them on the pond.   So I’ll walk around the pond with the […]

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