We recently moved to a place where Canada geese reside year around. This is amazing to me. Where I used to live the geese bookmarked the summer season, arriving in the spring and departing in the fall. Their arrival and departures were fodder for coffee talk.
“I heard a flock geese arrive last night!” we would tell a neighbour, bursting with springtime joy and enthusiasm.
In the fall we would feel a sense of melancholy as we watched the birds form their V’s and prepare for their journey south. Winter was imminent.
Humans could track and predict the weather all they wanted, but for many of us, we relied on nature’s clues just as our ancestors have for thousands of years. The geese arriving early was a harbinger of a warm spring. Geese departing early in the fall meant a long, hard, winter ahead. Though sometimes even Nature appeared to get it wrong.
I remember one spring in particular, when I would have been around 12 years old. The geese had arrived so early, it seemed as if there was next to nothing for them to eat. The earth had barely thawed and the grass was just starting to twitch beneath the surface.
My father and I were seeding a field to oats that had only just dried out enough to get the machinery on it without getting stuck. I was driving a tractor pulling the disc and harrows, while my father came behind in a second tractor with the seeder in tow.
As we circled the field, I noticed my father had stopped his tractor, climbed out and was removing some oats from the seed hopper with a small bucket. I watched as he carried it across the freshly tilled soil to the shoulder of the field and dumped it on the ground. This was confusing behaviour to say the least.
And then I noticed the flock of geese. Later my father sheepishly told me that the geese had arrived so early and their journey was so long, he thought perhaps they could use some of the seed oats to build them back up and tide them through until the land sprung fully to life.
I often think back to his small kindness when I see geese in the spring. The river where the geese hang out near our home, flows through a provincial park in the heart of our city. It is illegal to feed the wildlife and they seem to make out just fine, despite our challenging climate. Still, I can’t help but think my father would have found a way to sneak them some seed oats anyway!