Love is in the air in the goose pen

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The cold temperatures and cutting winds haven’t deterred the flock from thinking of creating goslings today.

The warm weather we’ve experienced the past few days prompted a rise in hormones for most of the male geese, including my adorable Finny.

The courting dance began a couple of weeks ago. Each of the boys would target one of the girls and start grooming her, a sure sign that mating wasn’t far off. But first, the boys had to prove just how macho they are.

Battles have broken out everywhere among the old boys, like my original ganders Seb and Sam, and the newer ones, Finny and his brother, Shamus. Then there’s Blackberry, a handsome gander who isn’t even a year old yet.

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We call him the resident juvenile delinquent adolescent. Still much smaller than any of the full-sized ganders, he’s decided he wants to take over the flock. With a pretty, pure white breast and head, and dappled gray feathers in the back, like Finny, every once in a while he decides he wants to be king.

He’ll go after Shamus, then Finny will come to Shamus’ defense. Blackberry will watch the older ganders try to mate with one of the girls, but he still has no idea what’s going on. He joins the rest of the flock squawking at this strange activity, then he goes after Sam or Seb.

Blackberry will be a force to deal with as he gets older. Either that, or this upstart will have the down beaten out of him by the older, stronger and wiser ganders.

I thought maybe Finnegan had finally figured out how to mate with a goose, but I’m not so sure. Although he’s a gorgeous almost 2-year-old and fully developed, he still can’t quite get the position right.

He knows how to gently groom his potential mate, but he’s not sure just where he is supposed to be located on her. Meanwhile, the most seasoned gander and likely the father of most of the goslings born during the past two years, Seb, knows all about it. If he would only teach Finny. I fear I may not have any grandgeese at the rate Finny is going.

But I can’t blame him.

Poor thing. He was raised by a human so never got the basics from the ganders. They picked on him constantly when I introduced him to the flock, and he wasn’t accepted until he stood up for himself and fought back.

Now, along with his brother, Shamus, they appear to be dual kings. I hope that lasts, but I also know that ganders don’t usually share power. They’ve chased Seb and Sam into outsider status, although those two will take advantage of a goose who decides to join them.

While procreation appears to be the top goal right now, the flock is tired of snow and being cooped up. Recently, they all marched to the front of the house, climbed five- and six-foot snowbanks created by the snowplow, then slid into the icy driveway where they waddled and fell, got up and checked out what might be edible. That was all fine and good until they decided it was too cold to stay out any longer and tried to climb the snowbanks to get to the side, then the back of the house where their pen is.

Seb figured out that both flapping his wings and digging his webbed-feet nails into the crusty snow worked very well, and he made it up the bank.

The rest, however, tried and tried but just couldn’t do it. Then the smartest of the flock, Susie-Q, showed the rest the easiest way back. She waddled out to the end of the snowbanks, then simply circled around on the layer of snow. The rest followed. I think she has forgotten that she can fly. We haven’t clipped her wings lately because she is so settled into the flock.

Finny and the half-Toulouse, half-Sebastopol, as well as the pure Sebastopol geese can’t fly.

Watching them try to ascend the banks was hilarious. They’d flap their wings furiously and give it all they had to ascend the bank until Susie-Q finally showed them an easier route.

During this cold, snowy, seemingly very long winter, the continued antics of the flock provide us with so much free entertainment. And Finny still knows I’m special as he comes to me, and lets me pat and feed him.

In another month, the girls will have built their nests from straw and breast feathers, and will have several clutches of giant, pure white eggs. Or they will decide to do what they did last year — build one communal nest where eggs upon eggs were laid.

Either way, by May a few tiny, fluffy yellow goslings will likely be born and the cycle will again begin. I hope the girls don’t kick any of them out of the nest, but then, it is such a joy for me to care for them.

So, until next month when I’ll be watching the progress of the eggs, keep warm, think spring, and find some similar animal entertainment.

I may be reached at petsplants@midmaine.com

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