Every spring, I take several hikes into the wild rhododendron grove in Deception Pass State Park to photograph the blooming. After Tuesday's visit, I went over to West Beach and Cranberry Lake in the park. I have found the East Cranberry Lake Trail to be a great spot for viewing wildlife.
The trail passes by a small, marshy island. A narrow waterway extends between the trail and the island. There is evidence of beaver activity in this section of the lake. I have wondered if the island had actually been created by the beavers.
As I moved along the trail, I spotted this Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) sitting silently and motionless in the waterway. The bird kept an unwavering eye on me, but didn't move a muscle. This struck me as odd behavior. Usually, they either ignore you totally or get very noisy and upset. Although it looked healthy, I wondered if it was ill. After a few photos, I continued on my way along the trail.
On my return back along the same trail, with a different view of the island, I discovered a second goose sitting on a nest. Now I understood what was going on. This was a female brooding her eggs. The first bird must have been her mate standing guard. I think I am very lucky I wasn't attacked. At this point, I spotted her mate dabbling out in the lake. He apparently felt it was safe to leave her side and go for a snack.
Today, I returned to the East Cranberry Trail to see how things were going. Sure enough, I found her dutifully brooding her eggs. I am sure this bird is mom. According to iBird Pro, incubation is carried out by the female and will last 25 to 30 days. Again this morning, I spotted dad out feeding in the lake.
Canada Geese mate for life. They will choose a new mate only if one dies. This devotion is also seen during migration. If a bird becomes ill or injured, its mate or a companion will stay behind until it recovers or dies.
When the goslings hatch, I am not sure the family will stick around the nest site for long. The young quickly begin to swim and can eat the same food as the adults. I'll be returning to this site several times to see how things progress.
UPDATE: Thursday 05/07/2015
Last Saturday, this was the scene at the East Cranberry Lake nest in Deception Pass State Park.
Yesterday, I returned to the nest site again to check on the geese. I wondered if the eggs had hatched yet. I have been seeing pairs of Canada Geese with goslings in my neighborhood and in other areas of Deception Pass State Park. Looking through vegetation along the trail, I spotted the gander standing on a log in the waterway. He also spotted me and came alert. Again, I wondered if this meeting would remain amicable.
I continued along the trail and spotted his mate on the nest taking a snooze. Apparently, the eggs have not yet hatched.
The noise of my camera shutter woke her.
Now I noticed the gander move into the water and begin to swim. I was certain he was coming after me.
I could tell he was agitated and he began to honk. But his attention was not on me. Something further to the left had gotten him riled. Then with a sudden, violent bolt, he flew up and around the south end of the island. The power of his wing beats created a shock wave in the air. Some other geese had perched on the island and my gander was having none of it. With a lot of scolding, he ran them off. It became clear to me that for the time being, that island was his.
He might be less aggressive once the goslings hatch. In the past, I have seen several family groups foraging together. According to Wikipedia, "although parents are hostile to unfamiliar geese, they may form groups of a number of goslings and a few adults, called crèches." These are colonies in which adults provide care for the offspring of others.
UPDATE: Tuesday 05/12/2015
Yesterday, I returned to the East Cranberry Lake nest site to check on the geese. I found the nest abandoned and the parents gone. I presume this means the goslings have hatched and the new family has moved on to the next phase, raising the young.
Across the lake, at the West Beach picnic grounds, I found several family groups doing just that: