Saturday, May 15, 2010

How to Find a Goose Nest

Canada geese often nest in very conspicuous locations. But not always. Years ago I spent an enjoyable 7 springs searching for goose nests along the Columbia River in B.C. and learned a lot of their preferences. Usually a single goose in the spring is a good indicator that there's a nest not too far away. A secretive single goose is a smoking hot sure thing. Usually that single goose is the gander and he's not too far from the nest - in fact he can usually see it from his watch position.

Next comes a mental picture of the kinds of sites the goose chooses for her nest. She likes privacy but also wants a good view of her surroundings. A small island or isolated penninsula is ideal. Her brown plumage blends in with the dry grasses and other muted colours, and she hides that spectacular black head with the white markings by putting her head down and remaining very still when an intruder is near.

So putting all this together, recently I surprised a gander at close range on an old beaver pond. He had his head down when I first saw him which means he saw me first but didn't have time to do a better job of hiding. The photo shows him after he knew I had seen him and he's just about to leave. He left silently instead of the usual loud honking exit, which is another tip-off a nest was near.

It didn't take me long to find the goose on her nest. She was on top of an old beaver lodge only about 40 m from the gander. You might have to zoom in to the second photo to see her right in the middle of the frame.

She's pretty hard to see, isn't she? But not hard to find at all if you know what to look for. The goose will hold very close to her nest as long as she thinks you haven't seen her. I've seen people walk right by a nesting goose in plain view within a few meters and never see the goose. Look at her though and she's gone, and she leaves loudly. If you aren't expecting it, you could get a pretty good startle! When she leaves the gander will immediately fly to her and both will remain very upset and vocal until the intruder leaves the area.

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