As the weeks march along from spring into summer, we grow accustomed to the ashy headed geese, or Canquenes, as they go about their daily affairs along the shoreline of the lake and the short-grass fields of the horse pastures. There’s squabbling in the spring as territory is claimed, followed by tenuous truces amongst the breeding pairs as they begin to lay their eggs, always well-hidden from both human and mustelidian eyes, for the mink, escaped or released from commercial fur farms in the mid-1970’s, have devastating consequences for waterfowl and other bird life.
Suddenly the first downy young are spotted, and we all stop and count the broods as they frantically waddle after their attentive parents, growing anxious after each storm or rough water on the lake or passing by of foxes or the neighbor’s dogs. We’re rooting for each and every one to grow, change their plumage and eventually join the rest of the flock as mid-summer sees both young and old come back together into a single group.
One day comes the sudden realization that they are gone, but not to worry as there’ll be one last goodbye. I think of this first disappearance as a training flight, for after several weeks the exact same flock will suddenly return. I know this from past years by recognizing individual birds with specific features, an injured foot for instance. For several days it’s as though they never departed and they feed in the fields and laze along the water’s edge.
And then, always after a clear, starry night, they’re gone again until that happy day of their spring return.