That was then. This is now. Suddenly, the geese seemed to stop with the migration 'thing.' They hang out in the city year round. They arrive here in Spring, tagging along with the big flocks that still seem to just keep flying, and they do their messy best to be a problem. Bless their little pin feathers, they are a pain.
So what is up with that? According to the Audobon Society, we have seen the Problem, and the Problem is us. It turns out that we’re “blessed” with a largely non-migratory subspecies known as the Giant Canada goose. They were hunted almost to extinction, for the large amount of meat and soft down these birds can yield. In 1962, preservationists discovered a small, tag-end population in Missouri and determined to bring the species back. Government breeding programs took up the challenge and, to ensure their viability, disbursed them all over the country. In a perfect example of well-intentioned plans gone wrong, they’ve now overrun us. We’ve created them. They’re ours. Yay.
The Giant Canada geese love big lawns. In fact, they’re the perfect suburbanites. Those that had any inclination to fly south soon gave that up, as the spread of parks, golf courses and large manicured lawns gave them plenty of green shoots and grasses to feed on. New ponds gave them water, in communities where hunted isn’t allowed. You see them grazing along the mowed edges of highways, with streams behind. The global warming trend is keeping them happy, too.
The simplest way of driving geese away from parks and lawns is to change the landscape. Geese like quick access to water and open grassy feeding areas that allow them to see potential predators approaching. So plant bushes and dense high grasses along your pond or stream, line it with boulders or put up a fence. Turn more of your lawn into meadow, which eliminates the green shoots they eat. Advocate for more shrubs and bushes around the lakes in our parks, to unsettle their sense of security. Tall trees near lakes and ponds make it hard for them to land.
Being a resort, we have big open lawns -- the better for playing pick-up games of soccer, volleyball, tag, manhunt... And while the shorelines are planted up, the geese can simply overfly that and touch down. We keep scaring them away. Having a patrol dog to keep them off the lawns helps too. So far today, Taffy has been on the job three times, chasing the geese back into the lake. "All of you geese, get off of my lawn!" she barks, bouncing at them.
The collective nouns for geese are interesting: on the water, they are known as a 'gaggle'. In the air, a 'skein'. On land, a 'flock'. Which is the reason we keep encouraging them to 'flock off.' So to speak...
They are a stunningly beautiful bird, though. We'd love to welcome them with open arms, but really, we can't...