As previously posted, there were two Canada Geese families grazing out the back of our property adjacent to the Indian River on Sunday, May 17th. One pair had three goslings, the other had eight. We also had another brief sighting of a family with several young the next morning at about 7am.
Mid-afternoon on Tuesday 19th, following a walk down to the dock, Peter discovered we had a stowaway. A tiny gosling had got into our canoe, and with the sides so smooth and slippery, the little fellow couldn’t get out. We had no idea how long it had been there, but thankfully the depth of the canoe had provided much needed shelter from chilly winds and maybe even a cold night. So, what to do?
We brought the gosling into the house, placed it in a deep container lined with soft bedding and partially covered with a folded towel, and initially fed it fresh grasses and shredded organic lettuce in some water. The gosling had a very healthy appetite. After checking various websites for suggestions, we added some water-soaked crushed Cheerios, a mirror for (pretend) company, and a stuffed sock, nicely warmed in the clothes drier, in place of a cuddly toy for comfort. The mirror proved to be a source of annoyance, but the sock was a hit. One website also said that young geese and ducks actually like a cuddle, close to the chest, as a calming device, and that too worked after an initial upset. I enjoyed that bit very much!
Following helpful suggestions from our neighbours (with whom good friendship and love of nature are equally shared) Peter checked a website www.ontariowildliferescue.ca which listed wildlife centres authorised by the MNR. The next morning, he phoned one of the closer wildlife refuges that can accommodate water birds, “Shades of Hope” in Pefferlaw, near Lake Simcoe. They were happy to take the bird, but advised that if en route we came across an area of water where there was a similar family of Canada Geese we could drop him into the water and his natural instinct would be to go and join them. It seems this doesn’t work for ducks (they reject any that are not their own), but Canada Geese will accept any gosling and are known to actually steal from other pairs. That being the case, we decided to try and locate a local pair that might still be on our river or, if not, somewhere in the vicinity. I was keen to keep the youngster on its home patch if possible.
Further help and collaboration from next door allowed Peter to set up on a better placed dock than our own as a stake-out to scout for geese, with canoe at the ready if needed, while I toured the Warsaw area by car. I only came across one lone goose on the river in the village, so no joy there. However, as luck would have it while I was gone, a family group of two adults and seven goslings were spotted about 300m away from where Peter was stationed, and they were slowly making their way downstream towards him. It took a long while, but when they got closer and settled for a while about 100m away, he was able to make his way cautiously through the tall grasses in the marsh, carrying the foundling in a lidded stack-a-box, and managed to get just slightly up-river of them to release the little one. As soon as the gosling hit water, it started an incessant chirping, and almost immediately Mom swam over from the opposite bank to reclaim the lost one, bringing the offspring count to eight. We had most likely found the right family! And we were treated to a fabulous “float-by”, captured by camera, to top it all off
So, a happy ending to what could have been a sad little story.
Stephenie Armstrong, Warsaw
This morning, May 25th, the two families seen on May 17th came up onto our back area again to browse, one family with eight goslings, the second with four, not three as earlier reported. They stayed for about two hours. Initially, the two families remained quite separate as before, with no interaction between the two groups. At some point, the families moved closer together, and it soon became apparent that two goslings had teamed up with the smaller group, with six now in each family. There was little sign of any aggression from the adults, other than the odd neck bending, and when the families returned to the river, each pair of adults sailed off with six goslings each. I wonder which family now has our rescued gosling!