The aggressive gander beats off the resident gander. Aggressor goose on the nest.
For several years a pair of geese, not always the same ones, have nested on our pond in front of the house and raised young. The last few years the number of young successfully hatched and fledged has been declining. Last year, the number of goslings hatched was small (three?) and the geese and goslings did not hang around long, like they had in years past. But this year was not good at all; actually, it was by far the worst.
Things started off normal enough. The geese came early, like they usually do, with ice still on the pond. As the ice started to melt, a pair took over the pond and chose a patch of cattails to build their nest. After a few days, a cold snap hit and the pond, which had quite a lot of open water, completely froze over once again. One night, tracks in the snow on the ice indicated a fox had successfully predated on the nest and ate all the eggs. This was in early April.
The geese hung around; then left, then returned and decided to try nesting again. Several sites were examined, but in the end, they chose the same spot they had first nested. We can’t be completely sure, but Lil and I are quite confident it was the same pair. She had the new nest built and was laying eggs once again by the third week of April.
All was going well until May 11. On that day, another pair of geese, noticeably larger than the nesting pair, flew into the pond. As usual, the gander displayed aggression to them, but unlike other geese that had tried to visit the pond, these ones refused to leave. As the day wore on, the ‘new’ geese became quite bold and started to move in on the nesting female. Despite their best, at times combined efforts, the resident goose and gander could not get the aggressors to leave.
With evening approaching, the goose back on her nest and the gander guarding, the aggressor geese moved right in. A lot of fighting and honking and what not took place. Eventually, the aggressor geese took over the nest and would not let the owners of the nest back on. More fighting occurred and a lot of too and fro, but as night fell, the aggressors were still in possession of the nest. At times, the female aggressor could be seen sitting on the nest.
The next morning, the geese were still fighting. Finally – I’m not really sure what happened – the eggs (it looked like there had been four) were gone and the nest more or less destroyed. Both pairs of geese remained on the pond most of the day, occasionally yelling at one another. Tufts of down from the destroyed nest were scattered about, attesting to the intensity of the battle.
The next morning, the pair that had been nesting was still on the pond, moping, it seemed; occasionally, they’d swim by what had once (twice) been their nest. The aggressor pair of geese were not to be seen. Then around noon, honking loudly, the pair that were still on the pond flew across its full length and left.
We’re not sure why this happened. Interestingly, the aggressor geese were not very afraid of us – in fact, they were much less bothered by our presence than were the pair that had been on the pond for over a month and had interacted with at least one of us on a daily basis. Lil thinks maybe the aggressors had nested on our pond in the past, or had been raised there, and knew us. Maybe they too had lost their nest, and had decided to come to a pond they were familiar with to try and re-nest, but found the territory to be taken.
At any rate, the whole thing was fascinating, but also quite sad. For the first time in many years, it looks like no Canada geese will be hatched out on our pond.
Addendum: The geese that lost their nest came back this evening. Now what happens?