Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 5: Fall Fowl

As I was leaving work tonight, ducks quacked, flying past me up the river. I felt I'd come full circle since the morning.

My day began with a huddled cluster of roadside turkeys, presumably chowing down on fallen acorns. Five turkey vultures flushed from a tree over my car, as well, their dark, bulky bodies making it easy to understand how the bird got its name. Until it starts soaring, it looks an awful lot like a turkey. Once it takes wing, though, the vulture possesses a grace that the more gangly fowl just can't muster.

On a brief morning hike with a co-worker among the beeches and maples of Ragged Mountain, I heard a flock of geese pass overhead. Though leaves shielded the birds from sight, the sound alone was stirring (though it reminded my co-worker of a skirmish he'd had this morning with his ornery rooster).

Back at the office, we found a lone Canada goose hanging out on the lawn. It let me approach quite closely, not hissing at me like a typical wild goose would. Concerned that it might be ill, despite looking well-fed and moving easily, I called Ken Bailey, Lake Warden and Executive Director of the Megunticook Watershed Association. I explained that we had acquired a pet goose at the office and were wondering if it was a happy goose or not. "Oh, it's a happy goose alright," he replied, in a tone that let me know I was in for a good story. Apparently this particular goose had been taken to Avian Haven, the bird rehabilitation facility in Freedom, because it was found weak and emaciated on Freedom Pond. The young goose had some parasites, but was quickly nursed back to good health. When the time came to release it, however, Diane and Marc of Avian Haven didn't want to take it back to Freedom Pond. The goose--as we saw at my office--had become very used to people and would not have survived long on the well-hunted pond. So the decision was made to release it on the Megunticook River, where hunting is not allowed. Ken suggested that the best thing to do would be to herd the bird back into the river. So after I hung up, I went out and walked behind the goose, which calmly allowed me to herd it across the lawn, over the bank, and into the water. Hanging out on the lawn with a goose gave me pleasant flashbacks to my childhood, when I spent a lot of time with my grandparents' pet domestic goose Max. But even Max would peck at my legs and hiss at me on occasion. This goose was very mellow. As it silently drifted upriver, I wished it luck, told it to find some fellow geese and learn how to be wild again, and went back in to work.

Near the end of the day the goose was back on the lawn, feeding in the grass at the edge of the office parking lot. A co-worker shooed it back into the river. Hopefully some other geese will come along soon, adopt this youngster into their flock, and honk some sense into it.

Once more, geese fly south.
Their honking sounds jubilant.
So why am I sad?

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