Sunday, 20 April 2008

Protection racket

For 31 days one of the geese has been sitting on a clutch of eggs and yesterday just three out of about ten, hatched. Whilst she has sat she has eaten practically nothing, although I put a bowl of fresh corn by her nest each morning. She gets off the nest once a day to grab a mouthful of water and a snatch of grass, and she is back to the job in hand.
Geese lose an enormous amount of weight during this period; their fat reserves gone, their feathers go dry and brittle, and there is none of the usual chubbily overfilled nappy effect dangling between their legs.
Two other geese have also been laying eggs in the same hut, but have not started to sit as yet; they might if the new births don't distract them permanently.
Today, the goslings came out of the hut, down what for them must be an Everest of a ramp, and onto the grass which they pick at in curiosity. The sitting goose is surprisingly not central to the outing; she is off, heading for food, like the starving animal she is. Instead, the eldest goose seems to have taken charge - that's her, tattered head, sitting proudly as matriarch. The tattered head is the result of amorous gander behaviour; he's obviously keen on the old lady as her battle scars are worse than those of the younger geese.
But now the goslings are here, the gander will forsake fornication and take up position as prime protector. Each time the goslings wandered through the stock fencing he nudged them back with his beak. I couldn't get any nearer without risking a major pecking and a blast of ear-drum shattering honking , so the image is taken from a distance.
The extended family of the goose is something to admire; a whole army of aunts and dad to keep you safe, and the hand that brings the chick crumbs and fresh water at bay, or at a safe distance. I suspect the rest of the eggs will go to waste as the excitement and duty rota created by the new babes takes precedence. But at this young age, I'm not counting my goslings; even with the best protection racket in the animal kingdom, there may be none left by the end of next week.


KAZ said...

I like the sound of that gander.
I study the male mallard who is so feckless and randy you are almost ready to forgive the male human.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Fascinating post, Mopsa. I do hope they survive!

Semaj Mahgih said...

But now the goslings are here, the gander will forsake fornication and take up position as prime protector.

Many a man can learn from this.

Winchester whisperer said...

They are so sweet but tell me something: do you ever enjoy the odd one with apple sauce?

Mopsa said...

Kaz - his name is Frankie (not MY choice) - but I don't think he's been to Hollywood..

Thank you Welshcakes - so do I!

James - I wouldn't demur

WW -
tells you all you need to know!

paula said...

I had no idea that goosy clanning was as protective and caring. As for the manners of the gander…well, I’m right impressed!

Not so in the duck population. We had a drake that tried to rape and molest the mother duck as she was bringing her newly hatched brood to the water, having practically drowned her he then proceeded to drown the baby ducklings – quite, quite shocking

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Forsake fornication? Never! You should see my wife's head. Scars, bitemarks and patches where clumps of hair once grew. I am just a great big gander. Honk! Honk!

Mopsa said...

Paula - ain't drakes a law unto themselves? My six ducks are all desperately muddy from the ongoing treading he gives them - he of course is sparkling white! I reckon a drake can cope with up to 10 females and that it's sadistic to have more than one drake in the Spring unless you have at least a dozen ducks. I don't know any animal with a stronger sex drive.

YP - a little gentleness goes a long way!

Winchester whisperer said...

It must be hard killing creatures which you take such joy in but such is the farmer's lot I suppose.