Goose Encounters

I’ve been birding on my lunch break more frequently than not-a nice way to take advantage of the nearby park, stretch my legs, and thaw out from the subzero office temperatures.

I read an Audubon Birdist post on birding in weird places, and was inspired to try the murky, trash-sprinkled marina nearby.

I wandered over, fully geeked out with my binoculars and Sibley’s guide. Within seconds of leaving the path, two geese started honking frantically from 50 yards away. One flew over with unmistakable intent, landing about four yards away. I have never in life been afraid of a goose, but knowing how aggressive swans can be, I decide to walk sideways with an eye on the goose until he relaxed. I’d had geese hiss at me before, I’m pretty used to habituated urban geese that ignore you in favor of grass. A little freaked out, I clambered further away and reminded myself to not be chicken.

I saw several killdeer, identified a new kind of sandpiper for myself, counted endless robins, and 20+ geese swimming in the brown soup of the harbor. Barn and tree swallows whizzed overhead, surely for the primary purpose of making me dizzy as I try to follow their flight path.

Ready to leave–lunch is always over so quickly!–I began to make my way towards the exit, which the geese and their five goslings (how had I not seen those earlier? where had they been when the goose showed me in no uncertain terms that humans are weak and foolish and only strong when we venture into nature with barriers and technology and an escape plan) had blocked.

There was no second exit, and despite being able to face hordes of rage-filled workers during the subway’s rush hour, I did not feel that I would come out unscathed against two protective geese. So I did my best to look small, skirting around them as far as possible, wishing I had an umbrella as some sort of defense mechanism, and broke into a dignified jog when one of them came at a flying run towards me.

I made it back to the pavement, which I knew definitively was my territory, and left with a healthier respect for geese.

Kudos to all the geese out there for raising goslings in urban, sometimes hostile, human-dominated environments. Let’s give ’em some space, eh?

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