Location: Adirondack Park, New York
In northern climes, some creatures hole up for the winter, others carry on fending off the cold however they can, and the rest just leave. Earlier this week, I did some preliminary fending off of the cold myself, closing up my lake house in the Adirondacks for the winter, though about 1,000 other visitors to the lake on those two chilly days, were leaving. Their honking kept me awake all night as flight after flight of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) landed on the water, jostled for position, took off and then landed again. They fed constantly, diving for aquatic plants and yanking up grass on my lawn, which got a good pre-snow fertilizing in the process.
Native to North America, Canada geese breed in Canada and the northern United States in the spring, raise their young then fly south for the winter. They need open water. As lakes, ponds and rivers freeze, they continue south, returning the following spring. However, this migratory instinct has disappeared in many populations of Canada geese. Since the latter half of the 20th century, the Canada goose population has grown substantially with many becoming year-round pests. The reason is two-fold: Their natural predators (coyotes, fox, wolves, owls, and eagles) diminished in many regions; and man-made bodies of water on golf courses, in parks and in planned communities abound, so food is available year-round, including human food. Though geese prefer grasses and grains, they’ll aren’t above scavenging trash.
Luckily, there are no “garbage geese” on the lakeshore where I rake leaves and move deck furniture. The fall chores take a little longer than expected. I can’t help but watch each grand flying V as it passes over the lake, breaks formation, then drops to the water’s surface with a controlled grace that belies a bird weighing up to 15 pounds. They can fly over 55 miles per hour and travel more than 600 miles in a day! I’m glad my little spot in the Adirondacks is an annual rest stop on their great migration.