Friday, June 4, 2010

Goslings on the lawn

On April 30th I looked up from my desk to catch sight of the first goslings of the year. A family of five young geese, accompanied by their parents, was crossing the lawn from Will's Marsh to Deep Mill pond. I cautiously stuck my head out the door to take a photo; I have heard stories of adult geese attacking unwary humans, and I didn't want to press my luck. The geese lingered on the lawn to munch on some grass. As I learned from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website, geese are "particularly drawn to lawns for two reasons: they can digest grass, and when they are feeding with their young, manicured lawns give them a wide, unobstructed view of any approaching predators."

These young goslings started their lives as eggs in large open cup nests on the ground, often made of grasses and other plant materials, and lined with the soft down and body feathers of the parents. The female chooses the nest site and incubates the eggs. Her mate will stay close-by and help to protect her and the eggs. She will lay from 2 - 8 cream-colored eggs that are roughly 3 inches long and 2 inches wide. The incubation period is 25 - 28 days. Goslings will leave the nest when 1 - 2 days old and are very active and mobile right away. They can walk, swim, and dive when they leave the nest.

One month later, the goslings have grown immensely, though they are still hanging out close to their parents. Students out in canoes this spring often saw the family swimming and feeding on the shores. Will's Marsh is also home to at least two families of mallards with 7 - 10 ducklings each. It has been a busy spring!

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