whither the geese?

Page Ninety-one

Monday 9 August 2010          Turners sneaks?

As long as I’ve known the place (25 years this month), Turners Falls has had Canadian geese.   
 Sidebar: don’t lift up your nose in
 snobbery and tell me they are called
 CANADA geese.  Maybe they are, and
 maybe not. In northeastern Mass where I
 grew up, they were called Canadian. And
 even if Canada should turn out to be the
 official ornithological term, I won’t use it.
 We do not say America Eagle, or Tasmania
 devil, noun beside noun, and there’s no
 logical reason we should do that with these
 geese.

This year, there have been more geese than ever. And for the first time in my experience, families of geese have been brave enough to swim along the shoreline and walk up onto land down at the point of the riverbank. Several sets of parents with several sets of goslings of varying ages.

That is, until July 24th, or perhaps a few days later. On July 24, I went to the canal and had some interaction with ten geese who were up on the land. For the next four days, until the 28th, I still saw and heard geese here and there as I did things around town. And then, about July 28, all sign of goose activity in the center of this town, which includes the canal and the widest section of the river, ceased. From the 28th of July until the 7th of August there was no sign of Canadian geese at all. I was looking for such signs, daily. Looking at the river, at the canal, in the sky over my head. Not one honk. Not one pair of wings moving. Not one black neck swimming on the water. Nothing.

And more unprecedented goings-on: 

1. On Saturday 31 July I went to the canal, and since I’d last been there three days earlier, the place had been mowed in draconian fashion. All blooming and pod-forming plants had been decimated. In fact, the mowing was still going on while I was there — on a Saturday. I’ve never before known the electric company (who own the canal) to pay people to be mowing on Saturdays. Nor have I ever known them to do the fall mowing any earlier than late September, which allows many of the plants the chance to go to seed. Why this premature mowing? Why was it still going on on a Saturday? Why no geese?

2. On the morning of either the 2nd or the 3rd of August, I went down to the point section of the river, and I couldn’t enter. The point was sealed off with bright blue plastic fencing anchored on white plastic poles. Never in all my years here have I found entrance to the point forbidden.  Late the same night, I went back to see if the fencing was still there, and it had been removed. Why was it put up in the first place? And why were there still no geese?

I didn’t see or hear any Canadian geese in this town from the 29th of July until the 7th of August. Finally on that day 15 of them flew over me at the river. And I saw the same 15 the next day, in the water. At least I’m presuming they’re the same ones, because I feel the new gooselessness here so keenly. Someone who is as observant of and familiar with the goose numbers as I am knows when something drastic has happened.

This is my theory:  there has been a major, devastating “flock reduction” that has taken place. Did the geese themselves decide to take off for greener pastures? I find that very hard to accept, since in all the years I’ve been mindful of the geese, they’ve never deserted this place in large numbers before. If the electric company or the state parks services or some other set of bureaucrats were behind it, they wouldn’t, of course, do it themselves. They would get some other set of bureaucrats to do the dirty work. Most likely Mass Wildlife and Fisheries, an outfit as unfond of animals as is the national Bureau of Land Management. I think some yuppies jogging and roller-skating away their so-called “RiverCulture” may have got their little selves frightened because there were geese coming onto the land (I actually witnessed this chicken-shit routine a couple of times), and they cried and wept, and then perhaps our geese were decimated.

Decimated how? Not shooting certainly, we would have heard that. Poison? Thus the very premature mowing and the blocking of the point? Capture and removal to another town where geese are in short supply?

I don’t know these answers and details, because if the electric company organized a goose-removal with Wildlife and Fisheries on the QT, they certainly ain’t ever going to admit it to Anne Nakis. No one in this nest of vipers will even tell me what became of my own animals, let alone the wild geese.

What happened to all our geese? What happened to all those wonderful goslings born this year, swimming by us with their families, eating our bread, and walking up on the banks? Are all those brand-new geese dead now?

I’ve told you before that this town is full of poisonous people. If I have neglected to say so before, then I will add that the ignorance in Turners and in the whole of Franklin county is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

What happened to all of our geese, who at evening dusk and morning dusk sound a kind of humming that is like a lullaby; who fly overhead in their many chevrons and honk and squonk their messages to each other; who are truly a piece of the river’s culture, whereas the roller skates and bicycles and baby strollers are not.

BackIn my own life, I used to sometimes sing the geese a song when I walked the river with my dogs. Even now, my own life destroyed, I did sing one verse of it late this July to the geese who came onto the canal bank and ate my bread:

                                     There are sounds to make you angry,
                                      there are sights to make you sing,
                                      but the bonniest sight of the morning
                                      is the snow goose on the wing.
                                      Her neck is long and slender,
                                      her road’s a simple line.
                                      And the rolling grey Atlantic
                                      has parted me and mine.

                                                     ~~  brian mcneil

What happened to our beautiful, plentiful, natural, graceful, peaceful Canadian geese?

Update:  On the 7th of October I went to the river in the afternoon, to see on the water no less than 400 geese. You can laugh at me all you like, but I cried. And stood there listening to them make their speech to each other and watching them bathe and flap their wings, and had my adventure of gratitiude for the reappearance of geese. We have our abundance of them again. I can never know a couple of things, unanswered questions that nag me (I hate unanswered questions of any kind): Are these 400 the same 400 we had before, or a new batch just arrived? If they’re new, what happened to the ones we had?

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5 Comments

  1. Jamie Dedes said,

    August 12, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Geese are so wonderful to watch. I love the sound of their honking too … just peaceful. Thanks for this post.

  2. Babs said,

    August 13, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Oh the bastards. Why is it that some animals are designated “nuisance” animals after people have destroyed so much natural habitat that the they are forced to forage as best they can in the wasteland of suburbia? The honking of the geese in the autumn sky is an achingly beautiful sound; the sound of summer flying away. May Karma bite the ass of those who would harm them.

  3. Jingle said,

    August 16, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    two awards on the bottom for you,
    thanks!

  4. braon said,

    August 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Babs, I meant to say last week in regard to your comment here: When you’re right, you’re right.

    Jingle: Thank you so much for the awards. I couldn’t actually find them when I went to your link (I’m really a techno-klutz), but I believe you.

  5. braon said,

    August 17, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Jamie: I don’t know how pleasant it is to read about their elimination, but I’m glad you were still able to like the post.


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