Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Goosing the season #phenology

The goslings we wrote about a few days ago now have lots of company. Today we noticed a couple of Branta canadensis families walking the roadside, proud parents leading the children through the neighborhood. I wonder if MNDNR and / or the Chisago County Highway Department could be convinced to install some "Reduce speed, Goose crossing" signs along county highway 36. Every year it seems, later in the Summer, geese end up loafing on the blacktop and one or more looses a game of chicken to a fast-moving vehicle. (The goslings are just above the red arrowhead. That's a red-winged blackbird on the post for comparison.)

if you see goslings, look for trillium and lilacs to bloom
if you see goslings, look for trillium and lilacs to bloom
Photo by J. Harrington

I thought, but was not sure, that hatching is a week or two earlier this year than in the past. It's also possible that I've learned to pay more and better attention and the geese are on their normal schedule. MNDNR informs us that "The mating season runs from March to April, after which eggs are laid. Hatching begins 25 to 30 days later." If we count 25 days from the Ides of March (15th), then just beyond the end of the first week in April it would be time for hatching. Looks like I've learned to be more observant rather than an early arrival for goslings this year. From now on, I'll remember to look for goslings when the local lilacs and trillium are in bloom. How's that for a phenological observation? And to add to that, yesterday afternoon we saw the first dragonfly of the year in the back yard. It was reddish colored and I would have guessed a Ruby Meadowhawk, but they're not supposed to be in the air until next month. I'd suggest maybe a juvenile chalk-fronted corporal or a variegated meadowhawk but didn't get either a photo or a close look.

blooming trillium mean it's time to look for goslings
blooming trillium mean it's time to look for goslings
Photo by J. Harrington

Several months ago, just before the geese arrived this year, I discovered Charles Goodrich, a poet and essayist I hadn't read previously. Last night I finished reading his Going to Seed, Dispatches from the Garden. It was a delight from cover to cover. If you find yourself in need of a "nature break," but can't actually get outside, take time to read one of his dispatches. It will refresh you in in less time than it takes to tell. I lean very heavily toward poets and poetry that's "approachable." Goodrich very much fits that standard in the poems published in Going to Seed. Here's an example previously shared on Writer's Almanac.

Wild Geese

by Charles Goodrich

            I'm picking beans when the geese fly over, Blue Lake pole
beans I figure to blanch and freeze. Maybe pick some dilly beans.
And there will be more beans to give to the neighbors, forcibly if
            The geese come over so low I can hear their wings creak, can
see their tail feathers making fine adjustments. They slip-stream along
so gracefully, riding on each other's wind, surfing the sky. Maybe
after the harvest I'll head south. Somebody told me Puerto Vallarta is
nice. I'd be happy with a cheap room. Rice and beans at every meal.
Swim a little, lay on the beach.
            Who are you kidding, Charles? You don't like to leave home
in the winter. Spring, fall, or summer either. True. But I do love to
watch those wild geese fly over, feel these impertinent desires glide
through me. Then get back to work.  

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