Lately, I’ve been privy to the goings-on in the world of Canada geese. At least two couples hereabouts have produced broods, and I have often seen Mom, Dad and the goslings go paddling by. One day last week, both families sailed by on their way to the little cove just past here, where they poked about in the rushes and reeds for quite some time before heading for home. That took them all right back here, and up the first family came onto the lawn where they foraged along the shrubby shore. After their departure, the other group arrived, and went through the very same motions that included coming onshore, wandering away from each other to forage, and then rushing quickly back into the water, bound for a safer haven.

While Canada geese are quite brazen and never miss an opportunity to vocally announce their presence or their comings and goings, they also tend to scoot at the first sign of danger, be it human or otherwise, and I’ve often see them hurry their young into the dense growth that is nearest them at the water’s edge. There, the parents hover, their long necks fully extended, their heads turning this way and that, scoping out any potential threats. Then, when they’re satisfied that the coast is clear, they issue some sort of signal known only to geese, and the babies emerge, one behind the other, and none the worse for wear.

From a distance, the babies have always appeared to be a brown dun color. But I was able to get a few closer shots of them recently, and they’re actually covered in a fluffy yellow down with some brown markings, the precursors to what will soon become the characteristic black, brown, gray and white feathers of the adult. Once they’re past the gosling stage, young Canada geese achieve mature size quite quickly, but they still lack the distinctive adult markings that include the bright white breast and white cheek markings.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the female adult Canada goose is generally slightly smaller than the male, but size variations can occur among both sexes throughout a particular population. The female geese build their nests in the ground by forming a shallow cup-like indentation not far from a body of water, and lining it with grass, moss and other vegetation as well as some of their own feathers. They try to choose a spot that gives them a good view in all directions in order to be aware at all times of approaching predators. Once the eggs, which can number from two to eight, have been laid, the males then assume the duty of guarding the nest during the entire incubation period, which can last up to 28 days. The goslings leave the nest within two days after hatching, and by that point, they are already fully capable of walking, swimming and diving for food.

As is true of the young of most mammals and birds, the little goslings are a delight to observe as they follow their parents around and dash here and there, exhibiting the energetic and playful traits of the young of most species. They are, however, already primarily and instinctively focused on foraging or diving for food, and they don’t seem to need much coaching at all along those lines. Except for the protection that the adult geese provide, the goslings do pretty well on their own.

As I watch them, I am reminded of the bond that exists between the babies of many species of wild creatures and their parents. It’s all part of the nurturing process that assures the survival of their own kind, and speaks to the same instinct that, in our own language, we know as love.

— Rachel Lovejoy, a freelance writer living in Lyman, who enjoys exploring the woods of southern Maine, can be reached via email at [email protected]