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Back home again in Urbanna

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An Urbanna Harbour pond offers protection for the mother goose and father goose that return each year. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
by Tom Chillemi

Geese mate for life, and they return to the same nesting site every year with their year-old goslings tagging along.

These are some of the observations made by Butch and Theresa Liverman who have been watching as the life cycle of geese plays out on a pond at their house near Urbanna.

For eight years, the same mother goose and father goose have returned, usually in late winter around March 1, said Butch. However, last year they came about February 1, and this year they landed in the last week of January.

“I told Theresa, ‘It’s about time for the geese to be here,’ and I looked out the next morning and they were here,” said Butch, who seems to have a special bond with his feathered friends.

Last week, the mother goose and father goose brought their eight children who are almost a year old. “They always come back with the same number that they left with,” Butch said.

In another year Butch noticed one gosling had an injured leg. When the injured bird returned to the pond the following winter, it reinforced Butch’s theory that the same geese parents return each year.

The siblings hang around for about a week and then the father will scare them off. It takes about two or three days to get rid of the kids. “They leave and come back, but the father won’t tolerate them. He squawks and flies at them,” said Butch.

The young geese don’t go far, said Butch, who believes they fly to the ponds at Rosegill Plantation. They will be back to the pond later in the spring.

After that generation leaves, the mother and father are prepared for raising the next generation. She will sit on her brood in the exact same spot she did in past years, Butch said. The father will patrol to keep away intruders.

Protector

Among the curious is the Liverman’s dog Peanut, who was chased off by the male goose. “Peanut came up the hill running wide open with the goose flying right behind him. He learned his lesson real quick. He doesn’t go down there any more,” said Butch.

After the chicks hatch, they are swimming in the water within days. They are especially vulnerable to turtles and predators.

Butch said he once watched as the goslings followed the mother and suddenly ran under her outstretched wings for protection. Circling overhead was a bald eagle waiting to pluck one of them up. “Last year she didn’t lose a single chick.”

Getting wings

Butch and Theresa have watched the goslings learn to fly. The mother leads them to a bank by the pond where they can get a running start. She takes them up higher each time, which gives them some altitude and makes taking off easy.

Geese mate for life. When a father goose was killed by a truck several years ago, one of his offspring found a mate to carry on the family’s life cycle, said Butch.

It only takes about four months for the goslings to grow to near mature size. About June, geese from other areas will flock to the Liverman pond, getting ready to fly away. Butch believes some of the older goslings are among the 50 to 100 geese at the pond. They stay a day or two. “You get up one morning, and they’re gone.”

But, just as spring follows winter, the geese will be back.

posted 02.04.2010

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