We live across the street from a pond.  For the past three springs there have been geese but no goslings, ducks but no ducklings, and swans…. Well, actually, there has never been a swan.  Last Friday morning, for the first time, I noticed a goose had chosen to make her nest and lay eggs.  She’d built the nest seemingly overnight.  It leans against the dry side of a concrete storm drain outlet separated from a parking area by about thirty feet of grass.  Her partner (for geese are said to be monogamous) swims or rests nearby.  Basic research into goose behavior indicates the mother will incubate her eggs for 25-30 days, rarely, if ever, leaving to bathe or eat.  The parents will also defend their nest aggressively if they feel threatened.




This slice of natural life allows one to witness thrilling aspects of animal behavior.  One also learns about humans behavior, which has been less than thrilling.  Within just a few hours, for instance, the nest attracted the attention of a young mother walking her two-year-old.  From my vantage point across the street I saw them immediately express excitement and bound towards the nest, stopping just several feet away.  The mother goose snapped to rigid alertness, and her mate flew across the pond to monitor the possible threat.  I’m not certain what the human mother thought, but she did gather her child and step back.

Only moments later, a teenaged boy approached within arms length of the nest and just stood there.  He stared as though he were seeing a ghost, not a goose.

“She might need some space,” I suggested, from across the street.

“But I’m not doing anything,” he responded, with the special tone of aggrieved defensiveness only a 15-year-old can muster.

“Perhaps you cannot do anything from a few steps back,” I said, with the tone only an officious boomer can muster.

He grudgingly moved back.

For the safety of the goose and people, it occurred to me I should make some sort of barrier at least twenty feet from the nest.  I did so by hammering into the ground several tall gardening stakes and connecting them with thick electric tape.  Surely, I thought, people will give the nesting mother her privacy.


I am so naïve.  At first, the barrier only served to capture peoples’ attention.  All of a sudden, neighbors who have never previously appeared to notice the pond while they drove or walked past stopped to see the ”attraction.”  And there are a lot of neighbors around now, staying at home due to the virus.  They snap pictures; they gesticulate; they call over their spouses and children like the scene is worthy of a David Attenborough nature documentary.  Most stayed behind the tape.  I felt I had done what I could.






The next day dawned warm and sunny.  I saw the mother goose on her nest.  She sat serenely all morning despite the parade of people.  Mid-afternoon, I walked across to the parking lot to pick up mail.  When I turned back towards home, I saw a neighbor who I will call “Mark” emerge from his driveway with a golf club and a handful of balls.  This appearance was not unusual; Mark is a thirty-something-year-old Naval Academy graduate who works as an engineer.  I know from brief interactions over the years that he loves to golf.  He practices on the grass near the pond several times a season.

To my astonishment, however, he appeared to be lining up to target the nest.  His first shot landed just short of the tape barrier and rolled within feet of the nest.  His second shot was identical.  The third went farther and splashed into the pond beyond.

Outraged, I shouted:  “Are you kidding?”  I strode towards him from 100 feet away.  He ignored me and walked to retrieve his golf balls.

“You know there’s a goose there, right?”  I said, when I drew closer.

“Hunh?” he replied.  “Why do you care?”

Mark continued to move towards the nest and reached for the balls with his club.  The mother honked with alarm.  Her partner flapped his wings nearby.

“They will attack,” I said.

“I have this,” he said, brandishing his golf club.

He seemed truly mystified I was upset.  For an instant, I nearly let loose a stream of blurted insults and threats. The words “moron” and “cretin” would have been included.  But I didn’t.




Dear Reader:  Have you ever had a moment when a river of thoughts cascade through your mind at once and, perhaps, bring you back from the brink of making a terrible decision?  During this moment I considered the following information:

  1. Given his mind-set Mark could reasonably be surprised I cared about a nest of Canadian geese. After all, in reality, once those geese hatched and learned to walk as far as my lawn, I will be chasing them away with a broom due to their prolific pooping;
  2. Canadian geese are the opposite of an endangered species.  If anything, they are overpopulating;
  3. Mark has all the hallmarks of being our neighborhood’s only Trump supporter. Unnecessary pick-up truck: check.   NRA sticker: check.  Deep Southern accent and military hairdo: check.  Barbell set-up in his garage along with a wall television invariably tuned to Fox: check.  In other words, if I went one phrase further in my verbal assault on behalf of Mother Goose, he might have decided to exercise his second amendment rights.  It could have become: “Thoughts and prayers” for me.



All the foregoing merged into the following change of topic and de-escalation gambit:

“So, Mark, what did you think of Captain Crozier’s firing?”  I asked.

“I was a little surprised they took it that far,” he answered.

“I just finished reading ‘Indianapolis’” I told him, referencing the book about the World War II naval disaster.

“Yes, I remember that,” said Mark.  “But I wasn’t really into naval history, just engineering,” he added.

I paused.

“Well,” I finally said, gesturing towards the goose, now settled back onto her nest, “I was just hoping to give her some privacy.”

Mark considered my remark in silence for a moment.  His blank expression provided no clue to his thoughts.

“Oh” he muttered quietly.  “I was just really… really surprised the balls bounced that far… really.”

I was skeptical.  Knowing he’s an excellent golfer, if he were truly surprised, he would have adjusted his second and third shots after the first one bounced directly to the nest.  But I decided to accept his statement at face value as his way of offering de-escalation.  “Quit while you’re ahead,” I told myself.

Still, I couldn’t resist asking:  “Isn’t it odd that the guy in Washington would pardon someone who slit the throat of a disabled prisoner, but comes out in favor of firing a hero like Commander Crozier?”

He didn’t respond.

“Well, enjoy your practice,” I said, and departed.

Mark’s subsequent shots were directed away from the nest.




Reviewing the incident and the community’s extraordinary fascination with the nest (Mark being the exception) over the past week, I can only conclude the coronavirus is making us desperately crave a positive example of nature’s wonder.  It has certainly made me more emotionally invested in a goose’s nest than I could have thought possible.  Throughout the day a continuous stream of people come to gaze at Mother Goose.  They point and marvel at the devotion of the gander as he hovers nearby.  It may be a bogus anthropomorphic perception, but I think he’s DEFINITELY puffing his chest farther than usual with pride as he glides across the pond.




If all goes well, my brief research tells me the eggs will hatch in another three weeks or so.  The goslings will be able to walk and swim in just a day or two, which seems miraculous.  And they will doubtless be adorable!  They will be able to fly in two-three months.  Thereafter, they will become a nuisance.  For now, at least, let’s focus on the positive.