Canada Geese are organized birds of habit. They like to visit the same places at the same times each day. Nearby our home, the geese always come to land around 6:30 in the evening on a field near a golf course. My husband loves to watch them land on marshes or in the grass. They are large birds, as much as 10 pounds, but they are able to slow their descent so that their landing is as soft as their landing target, grass or the mud of the marsh.
Although they are associated with marshes, Canada Geese like to seek out urban and suburban parks with ponds, grassy sports fields, and golf courses. To keep golf courses clear, herding Border Collies are sometimes brought in to herd the geese and encourage them to take flight to the next stop in the places they visit routinely each day.
In our area, we are fortunate to have many geese residing in a local business park that features ornamental ponds. During the gosling season, employees in suits or business casual wear can be seen escorting the young and confused families across busy commuter streets. Geese crossing signs further advise motorists of the geese life bustling all around them.
When we visited the local business park to take photos, we noticed that the geese had worn criss-crossing paths in the damp grass. The geese preferred to travel down these grassy lanes.
Canada Geese are devoted family birds and mate for life. A goose will stand beside a fallen partner and will never mate again. Both parents help to care for the young goslings, and they like to shelter them near the water's edge of a pond or marsh. Although they may often nest on the ground, sometimes they build nests at the tops of short, dead trees.
Many geese winter in California but migrate to Canada or Alaska for the breeding season. They form V-shaped migration formations and call out in a haunting squawk. Other geese live in California year-round.
In Northern California, it is easy to find and observe Canada Geese. Grassy areas (especially with ponds) are a good target to observe how geese are able to prosper in close proximity to us. However, it is most romantic to observe them in marshland; their dark colors against the browns of the marsh are a beautiful autumn scene.
When I lived in Virginia, I most often saw them high in the sky as I would hear their calls and excitedly look up to see the characteristic V-shape in the fall.
Two of my favorite authors feel that geese define a place. For Tom Stienstra, writing in California Wildlife, Canada Geese represent the "magic of the marsh." For Mary Oliver, in her poem, "The Wild Geese", geese remind of us of our place in nature: "Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,/ the world offers itself to your imagination,/ calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and/ exciting— over and over announcing your place/ in the family of things."
For me, geese define the season of fall. My father never failed to point to the sky when he heard the call of the geese. My sister and I would excitedly look up to see the birds, which alone would be small in the distance but which together announced "Fall is Here" across the whole sky.
The Celts added a poetic spin to geese as a symbol of the coming of winter. At the start of winter, the Celts believed in the Wild Hunt where a chief hunter helped gather the lost souls of the dead. The lost souls followed the cries of the wild geese who assisted the chief hunter.