Spring is the time that the Canadian geese are visiting in the Metro West Industrial Park in Plymouth, Michigan. Since Chrysan has the biggest front lawn on Keel Street in the industrial park, naturally we have more geese as guests who were looking for worms on the lawn. Occasionally I had to make a sudden stop when a flock of geese were crossing from one lawn to another with little goslings. With a “honk, honk” they crossed the busy street without any rush, just waddling.
A lonely goose waddling on the lawn is very rare. They are always in flocks, or at least in a pair, but once I saw one goose alone on the front lawn. Mmm, that cannot happen … just one goose. Talking to myself, I looked around the south end of the building. Following the pair rule, the male goose was heading to the north with the “honk, honk”, thereby telling her he was coming.
“Kwang, geese never travel alone. They are always in groups or at least in pairs.” He was silent without any comment on my observation. He was digesting why I brought up this unusual subject and also calculating what I wanted from him this time. “So, let’s go everywhere together like geese,” I continued without looking at his face. He was still silent with his face down over the Detroit News. I assumed that his ears were filtering what he wanted to hear. “You are silent. Silence means ‘yes’. Let’s go,” I added.
“Where?” finally Kwang broke his silence in surprise.
“To Grandma’s,” I answered with a soft voice, reading his expression. My mother’s grave is on the corner of Novi Road and 12 Mile Road, at Oakland Cemetery. Our family calls it “Grandma’s grave”.
“No”, with strong rejection, and then he lowered his voice one octave, “You go alone.”
“I just explained about geese in pairs theory, going everywhere together.” My voice was almost begging him to go together to Grandma’s. Late afternoon at the end of March the sky was gray … a snowstorm might start any moment instead of rain. It was getting cold and windy. Once a week visit to Grandma’s is one of my regular scheduled stops since 1996 if I am in town. The most powerful geese’s pair theory let Kwang’s heart thaw, or was it my nagging power … and we went to Grandma’s together as a couple before we finished our cups of coffee as geese.
Two years ago a goose was nesting at the south side of our plant. Actually near the loading dock. For Heaven’s sake, why here? There are many other places to make their nest, I murmured with surprise and uneasy feelings. Then I went to Jeff, the plant manager, who was unloading bulk base oil from a tank wagon. “Hey, Jeff, how long has the goose been sitting on the nest without moving or changing position?” When I asked Jeff, my voice was vibrating with a mixture of deep concern and excitement with the goose nesting.
“Oh, no, Kook-Wha, they take turns. The gander is watching the nest very carefully from a distance, and he takes a turn to let her rest.”
“How do you know if it is female or male?”
“Geese are always together as a pair. The gander is protecting the female who is on the nest all of the time.” Jeff’s observation made perfect sense but he forgot my question … how many weeks has she been sitting on her nest?
I could not control my curiosity. I approached the nest closer and closer, and stopped two yards away. Suddenly with a loud “honk, honk” a goose flew down from the sky. Actually, he came from the roof with “honk, honk”, and he was ready to attack me in full force. I ran away from the nest as fast as I could.
Jeff came over and warned me, “See, Kook-Wha, be careful. You may get hurt. Sometimes they can become quite nasty,” he warned me.
Holding my breath, “Yes. I should.” Then I went back to my office without further observation. A cup of coffee helped my disturbed mind to settle down and I sank into deep thought. Why was the gander on the roof?
“Kook-Wha, is something wrong? You look very tired,” Julie, our office manager, asked me with serious concern.
“Nothing. I am fine.”
Julie left my office shaking her head that she could not understand my unusual behavior.
About one month later Jeff ran into my office. He was almost screaming with excitement. “A baby came out. A baby came out.”
“How many? How many?” I screamed back at him.
Jeff did not answer my question but went back to the nest area. With extreme joyfulness, I wanted to follow him and check into it, but instead I calmed down and just waited in my office for further news.
Through the windows I could see the gander standing five yards away from the nest in the middle of the truck driveway with his head up to the sky. “Honk, honk” expressing his excitement. Jeff still did not give me any numbers. The next morning I saw that the gander was still in the same spot protecting the nest.
In the afternoon I heard really loud “honk, honk” through the windows. It echoed a mixture of desperation and misery. Jeff came to me again quite emotional, and upset … “One baby was killed. A truck ran over it. The gander will not move from the spot.” I saw through the window that the gander was flapping his wings and honking. The poor goose, I turned back from the window and wondered how many goslings were left unharmed.
In the spring of 2009, when I came back from the trip in Asia I found a new goose nest this time it was by the flowerbed on the north side of the building which is near the employee entrance under the conference room windows. It was a much safer place than near the loading dock, but it is still a heavy traffic area. The nest was under the tall shrubs and between the hydrangeas and the Christmas poinsettia. In the morning there was nice sunlight and in the afternoon it has reasonable shadows to protect the geese from sunburn. I am not sure whether a goose can get a sunburn.
Again this foolish goose makes a nest near busy traffic. I talked to myself thinking that I hope this time nothing goes wrong and they have a successful hatch.
As soon as I entered my office Bonnie mentioned, “Did you see the nest?”
“Yes. I saw it. How long has the nest been there?”
“About a week,” Bonnie answered with her face full of smiles.
I did not like her answer at all. I wished It is ready to hatch was her answer instead.
“Just one week?” I questioned her, and then I changed the subject, talking about the trip to Asia. I was getting a headache from anxiety and frustration from previous experiences of geese hatching. How can we keep the nest three or four weeks more without any accidents in order to have the goslings born safely.
I took a picture of the goose sitting on the nest from about 5 feet away. She sat calmly without moving her body but her head was moving to the left and right with fear of my approach. You will be okay, I am trying to protect you as much as possible. Hello, goose, do not worry, I promised her.
Soon I heard a “Honk, honk, honk” noise coming from the roof. The goose was looking down at me from above my head on the roof and he was ready to attack me. Oh, my gosh. Again I upset the gander. Hello, gander, I will not hurt your friend. Believe me, I will not. I took a picture of him on the roof, too and quickly went back to my office. I was relieved that at least he did not jump on me from the roof.
The next day was Saturday. I got to the office later than usual. Oh, no. Oh, my gosh, what happened last night? I screamed and screamed when I saw the broken nest. Luckily nobody was near to hear my screams. One large unbroken egg was about two feet away from the nest and a couple of broken eggs were on the top of the nest. What happened? What happened? I could not control my screaming from desperate anxiety. I phoned Kwang, seeking comfort from him. As usual he was quiet at the end of the telephone. I hung up slowly, trying to forget the broken eggs.
That same day in the evening we had dinner with friends from Carmel, Indiana. They told us an interesting story about Canadian geese that built their nest just under the dining room window again in the flowerbed. They named them Lucy and Stanley. For weeks Lucy sat on the nest and Stanley guarded it. Even if we had the exact same experience twice, we did not make any comment. We just listened to their story with curiosity and thrills.
Ken and Nancy told us the whole four weeks experience with unbelievable excitement. They gave all sorts of support to have 100% successful hatching. They did not use the front entrance of their house and just watched them from a distance. Also, they told the same story, Stanley was on the roof protecting and watching Lucy on the nest. Their house is in a gated community with five car garage and there is quite a distance between the houses. For four weeks they could only use the entrance from the garage without any inconvenience. Also, human traffic was much less in their community, and in their absolutely quiet neighborhood Lucy and Stanley had the best conditions for hatching the goslings in peace and comfort.
One day they saw seven baby goslings going in a straight line into the pond in their back yard. Of course, Lucy was in the front and the seven goslings followed her. The newborn goslings went into the pond without any fear or hesitation and were swimming away except for one. The last one was hesitating at the edge of the pond and could not jump into the pond. Then later Lucy and Stanley came back and escorted the last one to the pond and watched to make sure that it went into the water.
We did not tell Ken and Nancy our two unsuccessful sad experiences. I could not get rid of the image of the broken eggs in the nest from my mind for a couple of days. As my five-year-old grandson, I asked myself why? Why couldn’t our geese make it in our yard? I understood the first failure well enough. There was too much heavy traffic of trucks. For the second one all the employees did their best to protect her without disturbing her by walking on tiptoes and closing doors quietly. But if the geese could not hatch in our yard, then what is the reason?
The list of clues of the second failure popped into my mind. It could be blamed on the wild animals. In our large wooded back yard there are still deer, raccoons and other wild animals living there. Every winter I have seen footprints of deer near the evergreen trees around the plants. Maybe at night while looking for food they came and destroyed the nest. One gander could not protect the nest against a wild animal attack.
The vanished nest was about six inches deep and two feet wide, like a fort. A nest consists of mulch with very tight, strong structure like a concrete wall. It cannot be destroyed easily, not like a bird’s floppy nest of straw and branches. It was several layers of mulch with sturdy construction.
I hope they come again as a pair for third and fourth attempts. We will do our best for a successful hatching.