Tuesday, June 2, 2015

They Just Never Learn

I would have thought word had gotten out to the Canada Geese population to stay off Depot Pond. I have to admit, from the goose's perspective, it has to be awful inviting. The presence of birds, even of other species, is a silent message declaring this is a safe place to be. That is why hunters use decoys. And it is safe — unless you are a goose on Depot Pond.

I'm just going to ignore that goose.

Fortunately for me, the swan just happened to be down at my end of the pond. I watched her as the goose flew over, singing her mournful tune. There is just something about a goose's song that riles a swan. Maybe it is because they cannot sing themselves. Actually, despite their name, they are not completely "mute." I heard her one-note call just recently. While it may look picturesque, wings up is supposedly a threat posture. Hearing a goose makes her wings go up.

Nope, nope, just can't do it.

I knew as soon as I saw the goose land, she was going to be taking off and flying like a moth to a flame. In all the times that I have been there, I have seen her fly twice without a goose to encourage her flight. This was about the fourth time I have seen her fly motivated by the urge to kill a goose. Over the years, I have found that in almost any case, it is impossible to tell when a bird is ready to take off. This is the one exception I have encountered.

Birds that have their legs set far back on their bodies generally need a lot of runway to take off. In her case, I was surprised to learn she needs a lot of runway to land as well. A loon is another bird that may have a swan beat in the need for a long path. Not only does a loon have the same body configuration, but it's bones are not hollow like most birds, so it is much heavier which creates the need for a lot of real estate to take off.

In my opinion, this is the most photogenic spot on the entire pond. In the winter, it is distressing to see the amount of trash around the edge of the pond. I'm talking plastics, industrial parts, and even what appears to be an entire concrete septic tank! As the vegetation fills in, most of that stuff disappears.

I have noticed the swan has a technique for getting close to the geese before they realize they are her target. She does not fly directly at them. She appears to be flying close by and then turns at the last minute. That, by the way, is the same technique people can use to get close to a wild bird or animal. If you don't walk directly at them and don't make eye contact, you will be able to approach much closer. The goose is the little white spot peeking out just above the spatterdock to the left of the swan's wing.

The goose got the message! The swan doesn't even have to chase her. The Wood Ducks know the swan is not after them so they are simply watching the entertainment.

Notice how she put her wings back up. She is as much as saying to the goose, "Keep going."

This is exactly the kind of behavior that has caused states through much of the country to want to eradicate the Mute Swan. They are so aggressive that they do not co-exist very well with many other birds. I say "she" because early in the spring I saw her sitting on what appeared to be a nest, but I have never seen another swan on the pond. The aggression is not related to nesting but is territorial in nature.

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