When we moved into our house nearly a year ago, the previous owners warned us about the goose population that liked to hang out in our pond.
At one point it was so bad for the previous owner that he had to mow the back yard first so all the goose poop would come off in the front yard and it wouldn’t stink up his shed where he stored the mower.
Whenever I see geese in the yard – front or back – I chase them away, often using a golf club to beat an aluminum pie pan as I run toward them. Thankfully Tammy hasn’t videoed my antics for America’s Funniest Home Videos, and I’m sure my neighbors love me.
About a month ago I was heading down to the pond to pick up some sticks and limbs before mowing and I noticed one goose sitting near the water’s edge. It wouldn’t move, no matter how much I yelled and waved my arms around. Instead it stood its ground and hissed in retaliation.
It didn’t take long to figure out it was a mother goose sitting on a nest.
At first I was pissed because I had let this happen under my watch. I looked up ways to move or get rid of the nest, including one suggestion that said to “pick up the eggs and shake them violently when the mother was away from the nest.” It went on to say she’d sit on them until they were sposed to hatch, but they just never would.
The thought of doing that broke both our hearts.
But what happened last night was even worse.
Over the past month Tammy and I watched Daddy Goose patrolling the area around the nest, both in the water and on the ground, swimming and strutting proudly. If any other geese got close to their area he would charge at them, honking and wings flapping until all threats were gone.
Tammy bonded with Mother Goose, whose nest was less than 5 yards away from our garden. Tammy would talk to her while she weeded, watered, and tended to the garden. At first Mother Goose would hiss when Tammy approached, but over time she grew to trust Tammy (and me) when we were around the nest.
Daddy Goose would continue his pond patrol when we were around the garden, but it wasn’t until the last couple of days that he started to be a little more aggressive toward us. We knew the time for the eggs to hatch was getting close.
While I was mowing Saturday I was able to peek into the nest and counted 8 eggs surrounded by goose feathers. Once I finished mowing that area, Mother Goose came back to sit on her nest the rest of the day and most of Sunday.
Research told us that geese mate for life, lay 6-8 eggs, and return to the same spot each year to lay eggs. I wasn’t going to mess with them this year, but I told Tammy I was going to make sure they didn’t come back next spring.
Then last night happened.
We were sleeping with our windows open and were awakened by the loud honks we were used to hearing when Daddy Goose chased threats away. I thought maybe the eggs were hatching and they were celebrating, but Tammy knew those sounds were of distress and panic.
Unfortunately this morning we found out Tammy was right.
Tammy and I were both filled with sadness and regret for not trying to save them. If that wasn’t bad enough this morning both Mother and Daddy Goose stood by the cracked eggs, honking and looking around. Then starting walking our yard side by side looking around for their babies.
All of my goose hatred from the past year melted away at the thought of Mommy Goose losing all 8 of the babies she had been protecting so valiantly. Seeing them both looking at the empty eggs, then walking around together trying to find their babies touched Tammy and I on such a deep level.
The sounds of the honks last night were different from what we heard this morning, and both still haunt me.
I know what happened last night was “just nature,” and if I had watched it on TV I wouldn’t have felt this way. But this was different… Those two geese had become part of our family. We looked forward to seeing Daddy Goose patrolling and defending, as well as seeing Mommy Goose on the nest.
We were looking forward to seeing the little goslings following Mommy and Daddy, trying to swim, and learning to honk and fly.
But now all of that is gone.
So is the thought of tearing down the nest, because part of me wants them to come back next spring to try again.
I just don’t know if we can go through the heartbreak of this happening again.