The New Settlers

by Margie Riley

Amidst a flurry of feathers and a great deal of discomfort, they arrived just over two weeks ago. The discomfort was borne by them and by their transporters. They were crammed into the back of a dual-cab ute (pick-up) and vented their terror as best, and only, they knew how. The transporters were left with the odorous job of cleaning the enclosed back of the vehicle.

Our geese, Pilgrim or Settlers, depending on where you live, had been evicted from their previous home when someone had whinged to the local council because they didn’t like the honking. We live in a semi-rural area and everyone has enough space for chickens, dogs, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats and some cattle–but not, apparently, for more than four geese per five acres.
There were eight geese; well, nine once, but Brer Fox had a good dinner… Four of the youngest went to visit the butcher and the two breeding pairs were homeless–until we heard of their plight.

They were released onto the dam one by one and with a great deal of honking and panicked flapping, paddled their way to the far side–and refuge. They found a large submerged rock and set up home there for about a week until they were comfortable enough to venture out of the water and start to graze on the grasses and seed-heads. There was more than enough for them to eat around the watery edges of the dam, so we didn’t worry that they’d fade away to nothing but feather and bone.

Now they are very brave. They come up the steep hill to the house every day and spend most of their time grazing, preening, sleeping–with an ever-watchful eye half open–near to where they now know that other food comes from. They fix you with those beady black eyes, and you are very much aware of being observed. When we venture out in the afternoon to present them with some (chicken) pellets they approach us posturing, with necks outstretched and a bit of hissing to accompany the greeting. They are very greedy and gobble the meal as fast as they can. They much prefer pellets to grain, whereas the chickens have opposite tastes.

There is a definite hierarchy. One gander is Numero Uno but we haven’t yet sorted out if his mate is the paler of the two geese. We can’t yet tell the ganders apart–but for the bossiness. The geese (or dames), however, are easily identifiable. Mr Boss Man gets the first peck at the food; he leads the flock when he decides–with that small goosy brain–that it’s time they retired, and he metes out punishment to the other three; short, sharp pecks on the neck and head, nothing painful; just a reminder of who is in charge.

Each evening they return to the dam and ‘roost’ on the rock they have claimed as their own. (Perhaps they are Pilgrims!) The two pairs are as safe as they can be there–any fox which attempts to swim out to catch them would be heard and attacked before it reached their haven. There are water dragons in the dam, too, but we haven’t seen a meeting of the species.

Early the other morning there was a great commotion near the edge of the dam and one of the ganders was standing as tall as he could, wings extended wide, and he and his dame were honking at something in the grass in front of them. I couldn’t see what it was but watched them beat a hasty retreat onto the safety of the water. There they stayed for quite a while. When my dog Zac and I walked that way later in the day, he was most interested in a scent left by whatever it was. I suspect Reynard.

We’re hoping they breed. It would be wonderful to have Mother Goose and her goslings here and to watch them grow and thrive. There is ample space for them to nest beneath our veranda; it’s sheltered and cosy. I’d love to see the downy nest and their eggs. Mind you, I know they are very protective, so I’d have to choose my time carefully. The fox watch might have to be increased, but Zac is noisy and aware of intruders.

Maybe next time I write we will have more residents and another photo; that would be rewarding.


(Photo: Wanda Michalak)