Monday, March 7, 2005:
up to the Center Gate at the Rez and prepare to throw bread for the Gulls (my main wintertime activity at the Rez) and I hear
I see a couple of Canada Geese hotfooting
it from the left. Could it be...? Oh boy, it IS!
Poppy and Maudy
have returned, once again. This makes
it Year Eleven!
They apporach rather directly, but not exactly, because:
The Gulls have been the Alpha Recipients
of my bread all winter long. They think they own me.
(There are several Crows who like to hang around when I throw to
the Gulls and at least one of them wishes it were a Gull = it tries to float the air currents like the Gulls do but can't
quite get the hang of it, so it will sit on top of a telephone pole and try to time it just right to fly into the fray
and grab a bread portion but, alas, it never, ever gets it right...)
Poppy and Maudy are the New Intruders so the Gulls
are very Bold and Aggressive. Even P & M (who are old hands at this sort of thing) need a few days to adapt to the Gulls.
Right now, P & M are still a bit Unsure--the Gulls can actually take bread out of Maudy's mouth before she's swallowed
it! But, I guarantee you
This Too Shall Pass
soon enough. P & M will step up their Pecking
and the Gulls will, eventually, automatically defer to them = Poppy is destined to be the Alpha Male of All Birds at the Rez,
as per usual. The Gulls are a given. The Other C. Geese are another story... which I'll tell as it unfolds.
What a Treat it is to have P & M take bread
from my hands and occasionally grab a finger or two = Contact! With Wild Creatures! Feels Great!
3/8/05 - 4/6/05
Poppy and Maudy, of course, finally get the best of the Gulls and the Gulls eventually
don't even bother coming by--as per usual.
Weeks fly by and the story unfolds.
Two important days:
1. About a week ago I was looking for P & M as I pull
up to the Center Fence. One C Goose couple come towards me, but not with P & M Zeal. I check the Male's eyes
and don't see the milky white rim that P has - not them. I give these guys bread anyway and then see a C Goose Couple
(Couple #2) in the water on the right = "Hey, this might be them." = Not, also.
So, I cruise farther down along the fence towards the Castle
(the Maintenance Building, a picture of which appears on all US Army Corps of Engineers official stuff). I see a couple
in the water coming towards me = "This must be them."
But, no, emerging from the little Island attached to the
Castle comes a Screaming Meemie!
He flies towards me for a second, then circles towards the Male
in the water and shooshes him up and away! Then her circles around again and does the same # on the Female.
One more circling = to the Fence and Ted (and Maudy) who's made
her way over here already).
I look at Poppy, all wet but Erect, and say "UBD Mann, Poppy!
Still! Good work! Right, Maudy?" Maudy murmurs approval = Cool, cool, cool.
2. A couple of days ago I head for the Castle ('cuz
I now know that's where Maudy's setting up shop) and Poppy sees me, flies from the Dock to me and
Sticks His Tongue Out and Hisses
I've seen this before, but it didn't occur to me until then
and he Liked It. We Hissed back and forth for awhile,
then Maudy decides she can't stand it anymore (she's attempting to lay eggs, but not much is materializing, so far) = "I want
to see Ted, too (and eat some of his Fattening Bread)" and she flies over to us and settles down right close to the fence
and I look her in the eyes and she's doing this Thing with her Head and Neck
A Shudder and an S-Neck
She looks right at me when she does it and I try to Mimic it
back to her and she does it again and...
I Think She's In Love With Me
Oh God, do I have to marry a Goose?
Maudy has chosen her
It's on the little Island next to the Castle (which is the Logo for all of the US Army
Corps of Engineers promo--the USACE 'maintain' the Georgetown Reservoir). She's nested there before. It's as safe
as a nestsite can be at the Rez--there used to be Red-Tailed Foxes stealing goose eggs, but they built a new fence and I don't
think they're a threat anymore; however, let's not forget the Crows = they like any sort of bird eggs and bird babies, too;
and let's not forget possible human intervention (for whatever reason).
It's taking her awhile to actually Nest, but she finally does so on April 13th.
We'll keep track of the days and see if she breaks her old record of 17 days without food or water.
I was going to stop by the Rez on the
way to Work this morning but noticed some maintenance guys trimming grass inside the fence near where Poppy and Maudy have
staked out their territory so I just cruised on by.
However, I had some errands after Work which eventually
put me onto the C & O Canal Towpath (my favorite route for getting to and from Downtown = no cars--just bicycles, roller-bladers
and joggers; and an occasional White-tailed Deer or Red-tailed Fox) and Up The Hill (always a real Struggle—an old Cyclist
from Minneapolis taught me how to pace myself and hunker down and lean forward = I always make the Hill, but it’s also
always Just Barely) onto MacArthur Boulevard (my street) and heading towards the Rez. I’ve still got my Bird Bread
from the morning, so decide to pay an unusual Afternoon Visit:
I pull up to the fence near the Castle and pull my
Binoculars out (I don’t always carry them with, but it’s Spring now and soon there’ll be Migratory and Summer
Resident Birds galore) and look towards the Island next to the Castle = yup, there she is—Maudy napping on her Nestsite.
It’s only been a few days, so I’m pretty sure she hasn’t laid anything yet. OK. Where’s
Poppy? Not in the water, that I can see. Hmm. I see other C. Goose pairs in the distance but nothing close
to Maudy... Oh wait, there’s one up on the grassy perimeter, farther back from the Island—just plucking
away at grass and eating. Hmm, that could be Poppy. Does he see me? He might, but he didn’t see me
ride up on the bicycle and I don’t have the helmet on. Well, I break some bread and toss it over the fence—maybe
he’ll respond to that:
Yes, Here He Comes!
He starts flying towards me, but circles left a bit
to make a point with a C. Goose couple that’s getting ‘too close’ then banks right again and flies to Me!
(All the while I’m yelling stuff like, “That’s right, Poppy, come on, man!”)
Good to see you. Yes, this is an unusual Afternoon Visit. Everything is so Different in the Afternoon, isn’t
it? The Light, the Mood—all very Placid, if you know what I mean.”
Poppy nods = “Of course I know
what you mean. Why do you think we keep coming back here, year after year?”
eats some bread for awhile, then, oh oh:
Maudy Woke Up
She’s honking at Poppy and vice versa (and I’m
‘honking’, too—“Hey, Maudy!”)...
Here She Comes!
“Maudy, Maudy, good to see you! I hope
I didn’t take you away from anything ‘important’.”
She and Poppy do their Lovey Dovey thing and
she gets a goodly portion of bread (when Maudy’s around Poppy has a much Statelier attitude and posture—he eats
a bit, but mainly just lets Maudy eat and he does the Lookout thing).
A couple of Cyclists pass by (on the Grassy Strip,
not the street; which means you have to go a lot slower because there are all kinds of tree roots to navigate over, under
and around) and one of them (a Female) hears me say, “It’s OK, Maudy, they’re only Harmless Humans”
and she laughs,
“You’ve got names for them?”
“Oh, sure, we go back 11 years!”
Then, a rather unwary Juvenile C. Goose comes up from
out of the water and is heading our way (it could very well be one of P & M’s offspring who may remember me as the
Bread Man). Poppy and Maudy see it and I say,
“All right, who’s it going to be—Poppy or Maudy?”
meaning “Who’s gonna do the Shooshing?” I guessed right:
Maudy Takes Charge
Poppy just stands there, but Maudy hunkers down, fans
and shakes her tail feathers and makes her Point: “Stop right there, pal. This is Our Domain (I speak for
that Gander over there, as well) and You’re Not Welcome. Period.” The Intruder stops.
to go, Maudy! Sometimes I mistake you for just a Sweet Thing, but you also have an Assertive side, too. Very impressive!”
decides to go all the way with it and starts charging the Intruder and Poppy follows after. They all take to flight--the
Intruder off to the right and Poppy & Maudy circle left and glide into the water, headed for the Nestsite =
All’s Well & Secure
An enjoyable Respite from the Hum Drum for Me and
My Pals. Made my day (and maybe theirs, too).
Maudy started Serious Nesting on 4/13/05. Sometimes she's known to stay put for the duration,
but other times, like this time, she'll sit there for a while but then decide it's OK to visit Ted = no eggs, yet.
Monday morning, on the way to Work. Poppy is waiting for me and comes straight to the fence,
hisses and I say "Howdydoo, Poppeeroo!" He gets a mouthful and, yep, Maudy starts honking and here she comes, too (this
time she flies in fairly accurately--sometimes she's quite a ways off the mark and has to wobble back)! The Dynamic
Duo. Good Buddies. As long as I've known and observed them, I still experience Puzzlement--who are these
creatures, anyway? Eleven years and I'm still shy about looking them straight in the eyes, sometimes--there's something
Distant about them and I don't want to upset them... In other words, the Same Old Geese every year and the
Same Old Scenario: Mate (always in private), Nest, Birth, Rear, Teach and then Leave. And yet it's still
Fascinating to watch and be some part of.
Maudy did the Nest thing for 20 days. Her Last Day was today, Tuesday, 5/3/05:
I took the Handycam with me on the way to work this AM (haven't done any of that this year,
yet = it's a fairly big Hassle to rig Binoculars, Handycam, Tripod, etc. onto my Bicycle).
Poppy came straight to the fence, as per ususal. But Maudy didn't come (and hasn't
come for at least 10 days) = something must be Brewing down under). I got some good close-up stuff of Poppy at the fence
and then a nice Zoom upt to Maudy where she's Nesting. She was preening, etc. and seemed to be doing just fine.
After Work, I decided to drop by and check on them again, and...
No Poppy (he could be Patrolling elsewhere, no problem). But, wait...
The Nestsite is Empty! Oh oh. What's going on here? Another
False Pregnancy? (She's done this in the past, especially in the last few years--she's getting Old, as we all are.)
I look for either Poppy or Maudy and can't find any sign of them. Maybe she led Poppy
to a New Nestsite at the Backside of the Rez (where I can barely see anything, even through the binoculars).... I decide
to leave, but look back one more time at the Old Nestsite and... Wait a minute. I see one C. Goose on the little
Island and another in the water. I pull out the binoculars and it looks like it might be P and M, because...
The one in the water is Honking At the one on the Island. It looks very much like
the reactions Poppy has had in the past when Maudy's come up Empty on her first try. I recall Poppy being 'pissed' at
Maudy for at least a couple of days after one of those. This could very well be Poppy saying, once again,
"I did my job, what happened to you?"
Poor Maudy. She's looking down at Poppy and he's 'barking at her'.
Sheesh. A Family Squabble, I guess. I'm not too worrined, though, because they've always worked things out in
the past, no matter what.
I didn't see them for a couple of days, but saw them both on the Island today. Maudy
was hunkered down as if maybe trying again, Poppy was Guarding. Then, Maudy got up. She sniffed around and around.
Poppy just watches. She seems to find a Suitable Spot, hunkers down and then decides it's not quite right. More
wandering around. And then they both go to the Old Nestsite, sniff it and then (may lightning strike me dead if this
Their beaks touched, that's for sure. I think they were Making Up.
Then Maudy went meandering some more and Poppy just preened and walked around, checking
things out. I left after a little while. She may choose a New Site (if she's got Stuff Within) and it may be near
the old one; but, it could also be far away and I won't know about it this year. What I'll have to do is check out all
new Goslings that come to the fence (they all do, eventually) and see if Poppy and Maudy are Parents this year, again.
Initally, they'll say "Hello" to me, still. But, after awhile, they'll be in the Teaching/Guarding The Kids mode and
I'll just have to guess after that.
That's the way it is with them. They've got a good handle on their own affairs.
I've been looking for P and M all this time and have seen no sign of them. Yes, there
are other C. Goose Couples who come to the fence, but they're not P and M.
Several days back, I was cruising past the Rez and I see two C. Geese in the water Honking,
Fussing and Flying straight to the fence = "Could it be?" I pull over and push bread through the fence and they come
pretty much straightaway. But...
It's a Diffferent Pair. They're very appreciative of the bread (especially the Female--she's
almost Purring with delight), but it's not P and M = the Male is a bit too stand-offish and he doesn't have Poppy's eyes.
Oh well, it's nice feeding them, anyway--up close and personal makes my day, no matter who comes.
But, P and M: I'm sure Maudy chose another Nest Site and it's probably on the Far Side.
And that means Poppy follows wherever she goes and I'll not see them until she vacates this Second Nest. If she comes
up empty again, so be it, they'll make their way to the fence eventually and we'll bond again. If she does give Birth,
though, it could be Dangerous:
The last time Maudy produced a Late Littter, the other Goslings (who were much bigger by
that time) almost killed one of Maudy's when I threw bread over the fence = the Bigger Ones came like gangbusters and pecked
the hell out of Maudy's Little Ones = Survival of the Fittest = Lord of the Flies, somewhat. And the Adults do
absolutely Nothing about it--they never discipline their Kids, just make sure that no one else messes with them. I
must be very careful if Maudy succeeds this year = the bread-throwing must be in two directions: 1. for the Big Ones; and
2. for Maudy's.
But, that's yet to be determined. More later...
Some days I see no C. Geese at all at the Rez = makes me nervous. Then, there are other days when there are at least 3
dozen C. Geese. About a week back they all seemed to be gathered at the Far Side of the Rez and would swim all the way to
the fence (but not fly)--it took quite awhile for them to finally get to me, but they ate bread, etc.
Maybe twice, I thought Poppy and Maudy were 'leading' a Group (there seems to be two--one for each side), but couldn't
The One Thing I Am Quite Sure Of
There are Zero Juveniles. No Goslings of any size.
I know there were at least 3 C. Goose Couples who had Babies--one with 4, another with 2 and another with 1. Yes, there
could have been some wild animal Predation (Crows or Foxes), but there wouldn't be a Complete Wipeout of all the Goslings.
I'm Suspicious. It looks ominously like a 'crew' was hired to Remove C. Goose Families from the Rez (from what I've read,
the best time to 'remove pest animals' is after the offspring are born = the parents are sure to stay close-by their kids,
thus capture is much easier).
The C. Geese that I see nowadays all seem Single, Unattached, most certainly Not Parents. I don't know if Poppy and Maudy
are even at the Rez anymore. It's possible that Maudy succeeded on her Second Try and had a Baby or two... and the 'crew'
gathered them up with all the other Families. If this is true,
I May Never See Poppy and Maudy Again
I'm tired of hassling with the US Army Corps of Engineers = I've written so many letters, etc. in the past. But, I really
should pursue this: Babies don't just Disappear!
First, this observation:
There’s a Remote Possibility that Juveniles were raised totally on the Far Sides of the Rez. I thought of this especially
when I was throwing bread to a bunch the other day and a few were lagging behind and they Flapped Their Wings to get a bit
more acceleration and… the wings looked very Short. Hmm… So when these particular C. Geese got closer I listened
for the telltale ‘peep peep’ of Juveniles who look almost completely grown except they can’t Honk yet. I
didn’t hear any Peeps, so…
Still though, a Good Reason for the bunch I mentioned earlier to just Swim from the Far Side (rather than Fly) would be
that they have Juveniles who can’t fly yet. Hmm…
I do all this Hmm-ing today because:
I believe I sighted
Poppy and Maudy…
and Two Babies!
Now, get this: I’d given up on pretty much everything at the Rez—where’s the Joy? But…
After Work, I do an errand (about 4 miles, one way, via my Bissicle). It’s pretty hot (89 degrees or so, but not
humid), but I’ve got my pants rolled up real good and I don’t mind the trip at all. On the way back I take the
C & O Tow Canal Bike Path and it’s truly Pleasant = I stop off at my favorite little Respite Rock and gaze at the
Potomac River for awhile. Then I see this Amazing Bug—I don’t have my Sort Of Far Away Glasses on, so can’t
quite tell what it is. I, of course, am talking to it and asking all sorts of questions. As I get closer, it flies away, then
back again. It does this a couple of times and I figure I can pull out those glasses and get a real close look and…
it flies far away and doesn’t come back. So it goes. But just before I was to leave another Odd-Looking Bug lit on a
piece of grass and I spoke to it and it didn’t move. I got closer and it didn’t move = all right, we’re
Communicating. I put my face up real close for a super good look and the Bug flies onto my left Shoe and says, "Top of the
day to you, Bud" and flies away. Cool.
But even More Cool is this:
I do the Two Steep Hills that put me onto MacArthur Blvd. (off of the Towpath)—the first one is Steep, but Short,
no prob. Then there’s just enough flat stretch for me to get my breath for the second one, which is Steep Enough and
Long/a Killer. I, once again, make it without standing up on the pedals or just getting off and walking it up—Yippee,
I did it again (and it’s good for the Old System, too)! All right, I get onto MacArthur Blvd. (there’s actually
a third Hill here, too, but it’s not too steep so I just discount it as minor) and I’m going past the Rez. I’ve
got my Headphones on so don’t hear any of the Sounds coming from the Rez but I do see a couple of C. Goose silhouettes
and I pull over on the other side of the street (partly to check the air in my rear tire, too). I glance over at the C. Geese
across the street and say some silly stuff like "How ya doin’, good to see ya", etc. I look a little closer and decide,
what the hell, let’s pull over there and give them a real Greeting.
I do so and… what?! There are 2 Adults, sure; but also
Wait a minute. How can this be? They look to be about a week, week-and-a-half old. They’re certainly not from the
Families I identified earlier—those Goslings would be quite large by now. So…
It must be that Maudy finally did have a Successful Nesting! Blow me away! The two Adults came straight to the fence
to me and the Male hissed a lot (just the way Poppy would do). I look at the Male’s eyes—yes, there seems to be
that Faint Filmy Ring around each eye. I talk to both Adults and they seem to respond like my pals, but I also realize that
The Game Has Changed now—they’re in the Parent Mode and top priority is The Kids. And I haven’t any bread
for them this time. But I promise them that I’ll be back in the morning with bread and my little Camera—let’s
get this On Record.
I did not, in any way, shape or form, expect this. I figured Maudy was all ‘played-out’. You know what I think
happened? I think she failed on the Second Try and built a Third Nest and Succeeded! The Goslings I saw today couldn’t
possibly have been from a Second Try—Maudy would have had to do a Marathon Session… I’ll check my old calendars.
As I was gazing at The Family I was thinking:
I might be more attached to these critters than I thought. I got kind of Teary-Eyed about it all and it felt like something
inside me became Whole again. Whew! Analysis another day… Today, I’m Happy! That’s all…
Much time has passed. This year has been a bit Strange and Not Quite So Interesting:
For some odd reason, the C. Geese have been spending almost all of their time at the Back of the Rez.
They rarely come to the Fence. It seems there are Two Gaggles, but neither one is visible very often, not even in the
I scratch my head a bit: Why do they stay out of sight so much? Why don't they come to the fence
I, of course, suspect something Nefarious on the part of the US Army Corps of Engineers (the 'catetakers'
of the Rez). They recently remodeled/re-did the Northern section = it disrupted lots of things and caused the C. Geese
to spend Spring/Summer/Fall at a different location (wonderfully, they came back the next year!) And the grass inside
the fence was all torn up, which made me think they were trying to remove C. Geese Food Sources (grass). As it turns
out, that doesn't seem to be the case, but I wonder if there isn't a Chemical on this grass that might keep them away...
I don't know. Maybe it's just a C. Geese Glitch...
I don't see them much at all/don't keep bread in my stachel much. Oh well, it'll be Fall soon
and they'll eventually migrate out. Next year will be a good Test of whether the grass at the fence is undesirable...
Or something. We'll see...
One Lone Goose
on the grass near the Fence that I've noticed the past few days. Loners
intrigue me, so I'm going to try to make friends with it if I see it next time. Why not? A little Repartee' couldn't
hurt... And, don't forget, there are the Dookies (Mallard Ducks) and the Gullies (Gulls), too. What the heck,
I like the Crows, too (there's one in particular who's determined to catch bread mid-air when I fling it up for the Gulls...
and never succeeds = funny). It's just Nice to stop off at the Rez and 'talk to' creatures other than Human Beings =
there are no Hidden Agendas, here...
A couple of months pass by and this is where we're at now:
There are No Geese, No Mallards, No Coots swimming in either half of the Rez. Day
after day I look for something/someone to be swimming/in the water = Nothing/Nobody!
What the hell is that all about? I've never seen anything like it in 15
years. At the very least there should always be a few Mallards (there always have been in the past) = None. The
C. Geese have been All Gone for quite a while, now (much sooner than in previous years). And the Clincher is that there
are no Ring-Necked Ducks, either (I'm sure I've written about how a small flock of Ring-Necked Ducks will migrate from much
farther North to Winter at the Rez every year. They are usually accompanied by several other species of migrating waterfowl,
e.g., Bufflehead, Mergansers and Canvasbacks; but none of these are present at the Rez).
Conclusion (uncorroborated): The Army Corps has done something to the water to kill
the vegetation that usually grows there (there's always a time of year--late Summer--when the vegetation from the bottom grows
near the surface and it's always fun to watch the C. Geese with their derriers pointed straight up in the air as they try
to grab the tips of the vegetation under the water). Can I prove this? Nope. But you tell me why This Year
there are No Birds on or in the water at the Rez. Somehow, the waters have become Inhospitable to waterfowl!
It sure is an Empty Sight to see--two bodies of Water with No Waterfowl, None, Zip...
I've scoured the USACE Washington Aqueduct website and I can't find any info on what
they might have done differently this year. But, as noted previously, they completely rebuilt the Northern half last
year, and perhaps part of their plan was to eliminate all vegetation and Fish (yes, there always were Fish in those waters,
too) = no more hassle from their end about Bird poop, etc. For them, it would be a problem solved. For me,
it's Tragic and Unnatural. They've never proven that Bird-poop has any effect whatsoever on the quality of the water
they pump from the GT Rez to the treatment plant farther north. But I know they consider the Birds to be a Nuisance
= if there's nothing for them to eat at the Rez, they'll simply leave and probably not come back.
I'll continue to monitor these things, of course. But, at this point, it looks like USACE--1;
Everyone Else Who Loves To See Waterfowl At The Rez--0.
That's a Bad Score...
It's 'winter', now (even though, the temperatures have been generally very mild all along
so far and just a dusting of snow awhile back, but not a trace of it now).
The last time I wrote I was sick at heart because the Rez was a couple of big puddles of
water with no waterfowl (not even gulls) swimming in them.
Well, gradually, over the past few months, things seem to have gotten back to Normal: Mallards,
Coots, Gulls and C. Geese (transitional, not residential) all swimming fine and dandy, it would seem.
The key factor for me is that the Wintering Ring-Necked Ducks are back and seem to be just
fine. Have I mentioned them before? I sure should have, because they are a major Phenomenon at the Rez in the
They come from Up North somewhere and, God knows why, have chosen to make the Rez their
Winter Resort every year. I was curious to see if they would stay--if so, the water is probably just fine and there's
enough food/nutrients for them to be inclined to stay = yes, there are about 20 or so. Mixed-in are a few Canvasbacks
and an occasional visiting Bufflehead or Merganser. The Core Group is the Ring-Necked bunch, though. I'm glad
to see them stay.
There have been Canada Geese, off and on. And they swim in both halves of the Rez
= everything seems Normal.
So, the only thing to do is to wait for Early Spring when Poppy and Maudy should be making
their way back. I have no cogent theory why the waters were completely empty most of last summer--I'm stumped.
Algae or some nasty bacteria? Don't know. I just hope that won't happen this time around.
In the meantime, I throw bread up for the Gulls. And, recently, it occurred to me
to get a few to come to the fence and take bread out of my hand through the fence. Some have. And at one point
I thought I was beginning to establish a relationship with a Particular One (who seemed to be rather Alpha about everything),
but I haven't followed it up on a regular basis and, truthfully, can't tell one from another--they all look rather the same...
That's OK, it's great fun throwing bread up before Work = puts a smile on my face before I put in those 8 hours of Drudgery.