White geese mingling with Canadiansby jmaloni
by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
Last spring, I wrote a story in the Sentinel about the Canadian geese invading our area, coming from the south. Also mentioned was about how loads of these migrating birds have taken up permanent residence in some northern climes and there seems to be more and more each year. We know they congregate around open water and we have plenty of it here with the river and Lake Ontario, and a big plus with our cornfields. Lake Erie generally freezes up come mid-winter so I don't think they like that nor have any comfort in the open waters on the upper Niagara.
Spring came and went this year, but the lake in front of my house was pretty populated, especially when the goslings arrived with their parents taking them on daily strolls (or daily swims?) along the lakeshore. They are fun to watch, and I don't know if it is legal or not, but lakeshore people and visitors make friends with them by feeding them bread. That is, as long as that goose, gander and all the little goslings stay in the water and not come on shore; then you have your hands full and the shovel too.
In flight, Canadian geese are beautiful in their V formations whether heading south or coming north, but right now if you want to see something rare, take a ride through Fort Niagara State Park. Eddie Rogers, a frequent "walker" in the park, a little while back told me about the white geese mingling with the Canadians there. Spreading the conversation around the coffee bar at the Youngstown Village Diner there were others that saw them too, and all thought it to be very unusual.
I couldn't wait; I rode around the park that day and never spotted any geese at all. Two days later after my morning coffee in town I took another ride through, and there they were. They were all on the soccer field on the right as I entered the south entrance. I said OMG! There they are! I reached for my camera, as I usually carry it with me but I had no camera that day. After looking and muttering to myself and calling myself some nasty names, the other guy way in the back of my head said, "dummy, go home and get it."
I did, and the moment I pulled in the maintenance road along side of the soccer fields a big white 4x4 with a green stripe down the side pulled up within seconds, and the green uniformed officer (U.S. Border Patrol) started asking me some questions - something like what are you doing here, where do you live, and other mumblings. I told him I'm just trying to get some pictures of the rarity of the Canadas and the whites being good friends, it's unusual. I told him I write occasional outdoor articles for the Sentinel and thought this would be interesting for our readers. He looked, mumbled again while rolling up his window and took off. A good guy just doing a job for the State Park patrol I guess, or maybe he thought I was an undocumented intruder with car and all.
After I drove up and that big 4x4 drove in I thought, oh, there goes my picture, but who would have ever thought that 50 percent of these birdies would decide to lie down and take in the conversation too. I couldn't get them to stand and pose, and I had to virtually walk over to them and make a motion to stand. In the picture you will see the Canadians not moving, but the two whites were practically at my feet before they slowly sauntered off for the picture taking. Go to the Sentinel website if you want to see this in color. In other ride-thrus, I saw them over near the picnic pavilions and near the commandant's building. Look around; you will see them.
You won't hear any honking; that happens mostly in the springtime when they are looking for love. And in the springtime if you get too close to their nest, look out, goosey and the gander (the male) will attack and that hurts. Now they are saving as much energy to fly south or sitting to get fattened up for the winter holdover.
OK, let's wonder about the white geese. What kind are they? In my personal thoughts, they are a barnyard goose/geese that wandered from somebody's farm and decided to hook up with new friends. However, there are several identifications from different people; one said they were snow geese, but according to my Peterson Field Guide to birds, (the one that Loretta Barry made me buy) they are far from it.
Upon describing the whites, someone said they were swans. Dead wrong on that one. If you look closely at the picture, you will see these guys have absolutely no markings on them - tail, chest, back, anywhere. They have orange legs and orange bills. No humps on the bill, which is pure orange right up to the head.
When I came upon them for the picture taking, I looked for any kind of markings, and there was none, outside of being so white, stately, and plain old beautiful. Doing some of my research, there is another white goose called "Embden geese." Embden geese were imported from Germany in 1820, farm bred and raised for meat. But looking at pictures, they are bigger, with scrawny looking feathers compared to white ones in the state park now. Ours are streamlined, clean, and neat, like a new Coast Guard recruit.
I never looked into the eyes of our white geese but the Embden supposedly has blue eyes. I even have a real close-up picture of our white geese and their eyes. I will email the picture to anyone wanting to see it.
Hunters enjoy this time of year. The hunting season around our region for geese is quite broken up, and the early season runs from Sept. 1 to Sept. 25 with a limit of 15 per day. After that closes it opens again on Oct. 26 and continues until Dec. 18; that limit is five per day. Then 10 days later, on Dec. 28 it opens and continues to Jan. 12 - again a five limit of per day. The next dates are March 1 to March 10.
Oh, bring on the potatoes and carrots!
I didn't forget the story about the animal the "mystery lady" told me about, but I need a little more research and need to get permission to print the picture I have of this big animal. And no, the mystery lady didn't send it, but I'll give you a hint: the picture was taken somewhere in Lewiston.
One more thing - if you see one of our local Boy Scouts or a troop leader, commend them for the great job they do every year at the Youngstown Firemen's Field Days. It's a great fundraiser for the boys, plus the dues are being doubled for these young men of the future as of January 2014. I know, for three bucks to safely park all day I wouldn't walk, and besides, it's right near the beer tent.