Every spring we have watched a pair of Canada geese occupy their nest on top of our potting shed, protecting the eggs they’ve laid there and eyeing us suspiciously for weeks as we walk to and fro nearby. Yet every year they have departed without succeeding in their quest for a family. Something always seems to go wrong with the eggs: predators most likely, although of course we don’t really know.
This year we noticed another pair vying for the same nest, with lots of squawking and drama up in the sky as the four geese battled it out to see who would get to claim the nest. After a few days one of the couples was victorious, and dutifully occupied the nest and laid their eggs. We watched them anxiously to see if they would finally be successful this year, fretting when they were both gone from the nest for what seemed like way too long. Didn’t they know there were dangers lurking near the nest? Lizards and snakes and field mice and who knows what else? Shouldn’t one of them be sitting on the nest at all times? We labeled them neglectful parents when they were both gone for at least an hour. We were sure we wouldn’t be seeing any goslings again this year due to their poor parenting skills.
Then, on Easter Sunday, Ramon spotted four goslings next to mama up in the nest on top of the potting shed.
But no, there were actually six goslings! By Monday (the very next day), they had jumped off the shed roof (at least 10 feet tall) and somehow made it down to our pond without getting eaten, about 200 feet away. Six little geese were paddling around with mama and papa in the pond. We were overjoyed! Finally, we had goslings!
Then Tuesday, we were awakened by a raucous goose brouhaha on our roof – we heard a ringing thump and lots of squawking…the parental geese were clearly freaked out about something and flew off in a loud panic. Ramon walked around the property looking for the brood several times, but he couldn’t find the parents or any of the goslings. We went from joy to heartbreak (and the goose parents too I would imagine, not that I know anything about goose psychology).
We were licking our emotional wounds with a relaxing soak in the hot tub at sunset, when all of a sudden – PLOP! – a gosling jumped into the hot tub with us and started paddling around, squeaking and sort of shivering too. The poor little guy must have been hiding in the shrubbery next to the pool and figured we were his last chance for survival. Smart dude, because actually, that was a good call.
Once we got over our delight with having a little goose swimming around with us in the water, we started worrying about what we were going to do with him. What do goslings eat? Haven’t we always been told not to touch them or they wouldn’t be able to go back out into the wild?
We called our friend Denise who is well-connected in the wildlife rescue world who immediately got to work reaching out to her waterfowl rescue friends for advice: keep him warm, cover him with a blanket to help with his panic, and take him to Gold Country Wildlife Rescue in Auburn when they open in the morning. And it’s okay to cuddle him to help calm him down (the warning not to touch them in the wild is apparently not true).
So that is exactly what we did. We put him in a box on a bed of straw with a bit of lettuce and some water, enclosed in a towel and warmed with an incandescent light bulb from our chandelier — along with a few cuddles in bed with us when he started squeaking really loud in his box. There is something super sweet about cuddling a recently hatched gosling in bed with you, I have to say.
Once he calmed down he slept through the night, and we delivered him to the wildlife rescue volunteers in the morning, where he could join all the other goslings that had been abandoned or orphaned. Soon he will be taken to a rehab place in the country along with his new buddies, where they will learn how to be geese and released into the wild when they are ready.