Saturday, August 22, 2015

To Feed Or Not To Feed

We live within short walking distance from the Penn State Abington campus, and we walk there frequently to enjoy the woods.  Lately we’ve been visiting the pond on a Sunday and feeding the geese.  Now I know that this is a somewhat controversial statement – it turns out that some people are against feeding wild geese, and especially feeding wild geese bread – which is Very Bad for them.  I asked the worker at the store where I get my wild bird seed what one should feed geese and she told me I should not feed them at all in the spring/summer, and that they should have moved from ponds to streams to do their breeding, scold scold.

Although when I googled it to find out if indeed bread is bad, it seems that non-moldy bread is okay, it’s just that it doesn’t meet their nutritional needs, so it’s the equivalent of getting your caloric needs met by a mealful of twinkies, say.  We saw on-line also that a good alternative to feeding bread to geese is peas.  Geese love green peas!  You can get a bag of frozen peas and let them thaw and voila!  A geese buffet.  Except that no one had informed the geese at Penn State Abington that they were supposed to love peas.  We tossed them peas and they picked them up in their beaks and then promptly spit them out with a ptui!  The pair of mallards that used to be at the pond felt the same way about the peas.  No thank you.

I did some more on-line searching and found out that cracked corn is something geese like and it’s good for them.  If I ever find some cracked corn I shall give it a try, but in the meantime we are giving them a bit of whole wheat bread on a Sunday and hoping that we are not doing them a disservice.  This particular family had six tiny goslings when we first saw them, which became five tiny goslings a week later – and now all five goslings are full grown and hard to tell apart from the parents.  I also discovered online that geese are as smart as dogs (can this be true?) and can recognize you after they’ve seen you a few times.  This seems to be true with “our” geese family, since they will be in the field grazing a bit when we walk down the hill, and when they see us walking down the hill, they will go to the pond and swim over to the side where we feed them.

About a month ago when we were there feeding the geese Sean heard a splash on the other side of the pond and then saw two turtles coming towards us, their heads sticking out of the water as they made their way.  Now I will usually try to keep the geese occupied so that Sean can lob bread out to the turtles.  The only problem is that the pond is teeming with fish and the fish will often rise up and grab the bread before the turtles can get it.  I worry a little about the amount of fish in this pond.  It seems very crowded and with not a lot of natural greenery for the fish to eat.  We used to occasionally see a heron at the pond, but we haven’t seen it this year.  A heron could thin out the fish school a bit.  When Owen and I were at the pond last week a HUGE fish swam up to inspect our bread – it was whitish in color and was at least 14 inches long.  A goldfish gone amok?  The other fish we see are black and about four inches.  Anyway, I pointed out the fish to Owen and told him he was Douglas the Pond Monster, a Scottish serpent, and Owen talked about Douglas the whole way home.  And in fact is still talking about Douglas.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “monster” in Douglas’s epithet.

Update:  We did end up finding cracked corn at the wild birdseed store, and for two weeks the geese loved it (even though I found that feeding geese cracked corn ensured that for the rest of the day I had "Jimmy Crack Corn" stuck in my head.)  But the last time we went to the pond, the geese were gone!  I'm hoping it was just time for them to join up with the flock that flies over our house several times daily, landing on the nearby playing field for some grazing.  We still have corn left if they should need it.

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