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    Two domestic Pekin ducks are terrorizing the other residents of the pond behind the YMCA and Amelia Dental Group offices. Pat Foster-Turley/For the News-Leader

Cute ducks and geese grow up and change

Ducks and geese are on my mind a lot these days. It all started with the geese in our backyard pond. For weeks now, a pair of Canada geese has gone through courtship rituals, chased away other goose contenders, and then settled down to raise a family. Rain or shine, through wind and storms, the female goose has been dutifully sitting on her nest by the pond outflow while the male keeps a careful watch nearby. Usually geese nest on a high spot like a muskrat mound or something else natural where they can survey all around for possible predators.

Well, these geese in our overdeveloped world have found a substitute – the concrete outflow structure at the far side of the pond. Just behind the nest is a fence, and just beyond that is Simmons Road and all the zooming traffic. With their backs to the wall, so to speak, they can easily watch everything in front of them.

We’ve had a goose pair every year now, but this year they have faced big hurdles. Not only have they had to contend with traffic noise and disturbance, but crews using heavy equipment and pumps have been busy right behind the fence, digging up ditches, building up a bridge over a mosquito ditch, and paving a new bike path, all only a few feet away from the nest. One day there was the last straw: A transformer blew up in a large – loud explosion on Simmons Road right across from them – and then they were gone.

I thought the explosion had driven them to abandon the nest, a sad idea, but then, a day later, I saw them. Two geese leading around six newly hatched goslings were swimming in the pond! Great. The second day after the hatchings, the entire family visited our bird feeders, a favorite spot for the parents for years. We were looking forward to a few more weeks watching this family before they walked off to better surroundings, but alas, they left soon after our first sighting, never to return.

While I was fixated on the geese, my friend Susan Gallion alerted me to another poultry issue happening nearby. She was getting her teeth cleaned at Amelia Dental Group and learned about the big white duck bullies terrorizing the lake behind that office. A couple of days later, I went to check it out and learned that this pair of domestic Pekin ducks has been harassing the local ducks, chasing the geese, and once even chased a rabbit!

People sometimes inadvisably buy ducks for Easter gifts and, if released, they become a nuisance to native wildlife. These white ducks were most likely released after they outgrew the cute duckling stage after Easter. Do not buy and release these ducks!

While I was walking around the lake trying to find the Pekin ducks, I encountered another interesting sight. In a far corner of the lake, a goose was sitting on her nest, full of fluffy feathers. At first I thought she was dead because she was so still with her neck stretched out at a funny angle. I walked nearer to check and she barely responded, just looked at me with a glazed expression. I could have picked her up if I wanted. I was that close to her, but she didn’t even rustle a feather. That’s when the word “broody” hit me. Yes, this goose was broody, in some sort of an altered state just focusing on sitting on her eggs. That must be the reason why our own goose mother did not seem much bothered by all the commotion around her. Once on their eggs, that’s all that they focus on. It’s up to the male guarding nearby to keep her and her eggs safe.

I didn’t see any male goose guarding the female on this nest, but I did spot the two white Pekin duck thugs floating nearby and feeding on hanging branches and underwater plants. With these aggressive ducks around and no male goose to guard her and her offspring, things don’t bode well for the future of any baby goslings that hatch out.

Canada geese themselves are somewhat of a nuisance, especially on the golf courses and lawns they take over to feed on, where they deposit their copious droppings. I don’t often side with them either, but I sure will miss seeing those goslings at our feeders. Cute is cute, no matter how you frame it.

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