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The goslings are hatching at Market Lake

Living the Wild Life

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“I have a special place in my heart for Market Lake. I grew up going there (watching the baby geese) with my dad!” Martha wrote to me this week. “I’m excited to see baby geese in the next few weeks.”

Well, Martha, you don’t have to wait any longer; the goslings are hatching and are causing their parents some concern. Everyone has to see new additions to a family and it is daddy’s job to protect the family from all who gets too close including Uncle Joe.

As Mom and Dad took their nine yellow-fuzz-ball babies for a swim, Uncle Joe watched intently from a distance. But as the proud mother led the troop back to the nest area, the uncle wanted a closer look and got a little too close according to Dad. A fight ensued.

It was not an agnostic fight like the ones during the dating period – this was serious business. Uncle Joe took a whopping losing some tail feathers and getting hammered by Dad’s strong wings. While swimming away Joe got too close to a goose that was still nesting and got another beating from her gander.

I saw my first goslings at Market Lake last Saturday and every day since three or four other pairs of Canada geese would proudly display their babies. All the dads’ main job is to protect their family from all comers until the goslings are large enough to survive in the “nursery.”

After many of the goslings are about half grown, most moms and dads leave the kids with one or two “baby sitting” pairs while they head north to Canada or Alaska. There they will try to raise another brood while possibly Uncle Joe and Aunt Matilda takes care of 30 or 40 teen-agers at Market Lake. In all my research I have never found out how the couples are chosen to remain behind while the others go on a northern wild goose chase.

But in the meantime, Dad has a tough job protecting his brood. Great blue herons, Black-crowned night herons, Bitterns, hawks, eagles and even Sandhill cranes along with foxes and coyotes love little goslings for lunch.

Most of the geese at Market Lake will hatch out in the next two to three weeks. Be careful while driving down the road through the management area as the goslings may dart out in front of you. But watching them can be a lot of fun as the Moms and Pops try to protect them from even Uncle Joe.

Other things to watch for during the next two or three weeks will be the shorebirds. American avocets, Black-necked stilts, sandpipers, Willets and White-faced ibis have all showed up and are in the process of battling over mating partners. A fun thing to watch are the male avocets trying to drown each other.

Bitterns and Black-crowned night herons are now becoming visible as they troll the pond edges and canal banks looking for food. The tiny Marsh wrens are starting to collect cattail down to line their weaved nests for a soft bed for their little ones. And one of my favorites, the Common yellowthroat will soon arrive and join the wrens in the building of their nests while the males sing from the tops of the cattails.

As Martha’s dad helped create a her love of beautiful things at Market Lake, a gem in the Gem State, we can introduce others to the offerings of nature in our own backyard. With Camas Creek running full through the Camas National Wildlife Refuge, the refuge should explode with bird activity in the next two weeks. Enjoy your social distancing.

Enjoy yourself with your family; your kids would probably love a trip to watch the baby geese and other wonders of nature.