We have always lived in Clayton, NY, but not on the River. Our farm is at the upper end of French Creek and borders the French Creek Wildlife Preserve, so we have an abundance of deer, raccoons, coyotes,, ducks and, of course, Canadian Geese. Probably if we'd been closer to the river we might have learned our lesson earlier, but it happened this way.
It was maybe 10 or 12 years ago, when we were surprised to see a pair of geese with 8 or 10 babies, swimming in our farm pond, right across the road from our house. They were so perfect, proud parents and fluffy babies, obviously only a day or two old.
Just to set the stage for our story, the farm pond is man-made, furnishing water for the barn and the stock tanks in the winter. There is another, larger pond, in the creek 150 feet or so back across the horse pasture. We had just purchased a team of young Hafflinger horses, who were enjoying the Spring sunshine and green grass in the pasture.
That first day, we were all out in the yard, enjoying the obvious pride of the big geese. Our Grandchildren were loving the babies when a flock of seagulls swooped down with the obvious intent of carrying off the baby geese. Panic ensued as the Geese herded the babies out of the water and under their protective wings.
Leo, my husband and Bobby, our son-in-law, ran out shouting and waving their caps to scare the seagulls away and calamity was avoided. However Mama and Daddy Goose decided that the bigger pond with the protective marsh grass and surrounding trees might be a safer place to raise a family, so they headed back across the pasture, carefully herding the babies between them.
bout that time, Amos and Sophie, (the names of our new horses) the Hafflingers, noticed the strange creatures in their pasture and decided to investigate. They trotted over, heads and tails high, to see who was in their pasture. About the time Amos got six feet or so from the little family Mama or Papa Goose, (It's hard to tell with geese) flew straight into his face, and clinging to his halter on both sides of his head started beating him with her wings.
What a sight!! And what a commotion, little ones were screaming for Poppy to save Amos (or the geese, we weren't sure), and Leo was jumping the fence and running to try to get things under control. Finally Amos, the Hafflinger, shook the goose off and staggered away, and the goose lay still for a minute or so , then got up shakily and followed her mate and the little ones back to the creek. The excitement was over for that day.
However, the geese didn't leave. They stayed back at the creek most of the time, but every day they ventured up to the farm pond, swam around for a little while, picked at the fresh green grass and wandered around the pasture. Every night they waddled back to the creek to find cover from predators in the marsh. At that time there were few neighbors in the area, mostly older couples, who had lived there for a long time. They all slowed and watched for the geese, who by this time occasionally wandered into the road.
Canadion Geese grow very quickly. It seems like a very few weeks until it became hard to tell the babies from the parents. They made quite a flock when they marched around the pond and into the road. We drew the limit when they occasionally wandered into our front yard, but they easily learned to run back across the road when we opened a door to shoo them away.
It wasn't long before they started to get their strong wing feathers and soon they were running and flapping their new wings up and down. We all enjoyed seeing them as they learned to run and flap their wings. to take off for a few feet, then land in the pond for a short swim, then try again.
Soon they were flying over the fences , then one day a few of them flew over the barn. Then after a few weeks of that, one morning they were gone.
We didn't see them for a while, but one morning in early Fall, there they were in the pond, no way to tell the babies from the parents, They stayed for a while and then flew south, and our Summer with the geese was over.
I could end the story right there, but we learned a lot about Geese in the years that followed.
Apparently Canadian Geese will come back to where they were born and raised year after year. They start new families and teach them well that home is the best place to be. In this case, home was in our farm pond.
The second year wasn't too bad. They became a conversation piece, and many people from the village loved to take a drive up around the farm and see the beautiful flock of geese, so tame and peaceful, swimming in the pond and walking proudly up and down the road.
However, after a year or two, when the Grandchildren started talking about playing hop-scotch up and down the road trying to miss the goose droppings, we decided we had to do something: (1) Fake owls on fence posts didn't deter them. They looked at them for a while and decided if they didn't move they couldn't hurt them. (2) We strung posts and yellow tape around the pond. They didn't seem to mind that at all. They just ducked under it or stepped over the top, looking a little annoyed at the inconvenience. and (3) They soon learned that gunshots didn't mean a thing as long as they were fired way over their heads.
When the pond started turning green and the geese started pulling all the alfalfa shoots out of the pasture, Leo finally found one thing that slowed them down and kept them away for a few days.
He would take his big farm 4-wheeler and literally chase them out of the horse pasture. He was good at it. The little grandchildren sometimes would worry that Poppy might run over the geese, and a few times I worried also, but he was a good goose-chaser. A few times we found a few feathers here and there when he got very close, but he never hit one, and the geese soon learned to take off when he started the engine on the 4-wheeler.
We put up with it for a few years, but we finally realized that they weren't going to go away peacefully, so we finally did gave a neighbor permission to hunt just one morning in the back field, because the geese were literally ruining our pastures.
That was the one thing that finally chased them away. We still see flocks of geese flying over and occasionally a flock will land in the pasture if it's a stormy day and they need to rest on their way south, but I think they have learned that our farm pond is not the best place to raise their families. It was a hard lesson learned, but i still remember how we enjoyed that first flock of fluffy baby geese that one Spring.
By Nancy Bond
Nancy Bond began writing in high school 60+ years ago, but then family life took hold, as she and her husband Leo raised twelve children, on their farm in the town of Clayton. It was only recently that Nancy began writing her memories on paper, for her children to enjoy. The Thousand Islands Museum persuaded her to share these memories with the Thousand Islands Sun and now with TI Life for all to enjoy. Click here for Nancy’s other articles.