Thursday, April 30, 2015

Family Values

Canada Goose

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.

Canada Goose

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.

Canada Goose

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 Goose

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

Canada Geese

Last Saturday, this was the scene at the East Cranberry Lake nest in Deception Pass State Park.

Canada Goose

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.

Canada Goose

I continued along the trail and spotted his mate on the nest taking a snooze.  Apparently, the eggs have not yet hatched.

Canada Goose

The noise of my camera shutter woke her.

Canada Goose

Now I noticed the gander move into the water and begin to swim.  I was certain he was coming after me.

Canada Goose

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

Abandoned Nest

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:

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lawn Statues

Columbian Black-tailed Deer

Some people buy plastic deer statues to put in their gardens.  I have the real thing.

About six months ago, I set up the BirdCam as a "trail cam" in the west side yard.  My goal was to try and catch the deer passing by on their way to the beach.  The trail that ran down this side of the yard when I bought the property turned out to be a deer trail.  Despite building and landscaping, they continue to follow the same path after 28 years.

Until now, the BirdCam caught several shots of me walking around the yard, but no usable photos of the deer.  I did catch some night shots but they were just vague outlines with glowing eyes.

Finally, patience paid off.  The BirdCam captured two decent photos yesterday morning.  This is the one I liked the best.  I wish I knew what had caught her attention.  She appears very interested in something over to the left.

These are Columbian Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) a subspecies of Mule Deer.  I have had to learn to garden with these guys around so much.  Over the years I have found plants to avoid by trial and error.  They are particularly fond of Dogwood and Ninebark.  They also like the Nootka Rose along the path to the beach, but that helps keep it under control.  The key to getting along with the deer is to not get overly upset when you discover something has been chewed up.  Consider it finding one more thing not to plant.

I have also learned how to avoid deer-plus-vehicle collisions when driving.  A series of quick, short honks with the horn always sends them scurrying out of the path of my truck.

Plastic lawn statues are OK, but I think I prefer the real critters in my yard.