January 15th, 2020

Venus

LJ Idol Season 11: "For The Birds"

For The Birds
idol season eleven | week 11, Topic 1 | 1270 words
Wild Goose Chase

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Skrr-gonk! Gonk! Skrrrrrr-gonk!

Oh, for crying out loud, are you kidding me? It's the middle of January—how can those stupid geese be back at my office again already?

It's hard enough just having to go to work, some days. Do we really need harassment on top of it? And yes, that's what these birds bring to the equation: territorial behavior and loud, obnoxious voices.

Every. Damned. Year.

I'm talking about Canadian geese, of course—those large, handsome birds that have infested public parks and golf courses for decades. They were still listed as 'endangered' as of about twenty years ago, which honestly seemed like a joke. Down here in the United States, they weren't scarce or threatened at all. They'd just gotten smart enough to stop migrating! Geese that used to fly over Washington and Oregon and Northern California on their way to warmer regions finally realized that the climate near the midpoint of their journey was perfectly tolerable, so why keeping going back-and-forth every year? Achievement unlocked!

That saved the geese a lot of time and effort, but it has not worked out so well for the human population.

I don't remember how long ago the problem with the "office geese" started. I've been at this office for more than 25 years, but it seems as if these pesky visitors have only plagued us for about the last 7 or 8 of them. They just showed up one year and decided to build nests on the property, and they've been coming back to bother us ever since.

The heralding of the geese's mating season begins with rampant honking as workers walk through the parking lot toward the buildings every morning. There may be one or two geese standing on top of those three-story buildings, keeping watch and attempting to out-macho anyone they see down below. Sometimes they’re spread out across multiple buildings or even on the ground, and sometimes they stand high up over the main doorway and harangue everyone they see, reserving their extra wrath for a chosen few. One goose nearly worked himself into a stroke last year over a coworker in an orange sweatshirt. Clearly, Mr. Orange was an agent of Death.

In addition to making life unpleasant for all the humans in their vicinity, the geese also fight with each other. The office is popular with multiple mating pairs now, so hostilities break out over prized gutters or other random egg-laying locations. Most of the geese nest on the roofs, sometimes on the slanted metal plating or in other oddly uncomfortable locations.

Possibly this makes them even more ornery. The roofs are beady-eyed battlegrounds of honking and squawking and other goose-outbursts of, "Don't you eyeball me, boy!"

Because geese usually return to mate and nest where they are born, you can see that this will only grow uglier over time. And no, they don't remember that these other geese are family, any more than other birds or animals do.

While the noise is irritating, the squabbling and aggression can be entertaining—at least, from a distance. But sometimes, that desire to police the parking lot moves down to the ground level and gets more personal…

One year, a goose set up residence in the lane between the lot and the main pathway to the building. He would stand in the way of cars, and he would track your every movement as you walked past him toward the entrance. Landscaping and dirt limited how far away you could get from him without making a lengthy detour to avoid tromping through the mud. He would stare you down and hiss at you as you went, and while I don't think he ever attacked anyone, there was always that chance.

He might or might not have been the same goose that guarded a nearby area a year or two later. That goose patrolled the edge of the concrete sidewalk that abutted the drive leading between two of the buildings up to the main lobby. Often, he'd be lurking in the shade under the big tree there, and when people would try to drive through or walk past on their way to the lobby or across to the other building, he'd pop up and position himself in the way and let them know what was what.

In case you were wondering, the incubation period for Canadian geese is about 30 days. And then, of course, the goslings have to be protected too. So, once a goose picks an annoying area to defend, that obnoxiousness can last for several months. Hence the lack of enthusiasm for discovering that their mating season has started again. And it isn't even Spring!

Years before the geese showed up, the office started to get overrun with wild turkeys. While some turkeys can be aggressive (the Davis cemetery had problems with them for years), most just poop a lot and get in your way. Just yesterday, I noticed large amounts of poop by several of the outside doorways. The turkeys congregate there sometimes to stay out of the rain.

Unless those particular messes were also left there by the geese, which also have similarly large, troublesome poop.

The turkeys and the geese do not always get along, which can also be entertaining. Once, when I was getting my bike out of the car to go riding, I could hear this commotion over by the corner of one of the buildings:

*Lobble-lobble-lobble-lobble!*

*Honka-hurnka-ga-HONK!*

*Lobble-lobble-lobble-lobble-lobble!*

A flock of turkeys had discovered a goose nesting by the building and were busy counter-harassing it, perhaps to make up for previous weeks of being hassled by the geese who were trying to scare all the other wildlife off the property.

Now, I worry about both turkeys and geese when I'm out bicycling along the American River Parkway. Both are prevalent, and tend to be wandering on or near the pavement, although the geese are touchier and more likely to become airborne. Either way, whether I'm risking smacking into them with my front tire or getting clocked in the helmet with one of them, they are seriously large birds. The geese are apparently about 14 pounds (they look much heavier), and the turkeys anywhere from 10 to 24 pounds. That's a lot of impact!

At least, when I'm bicycling near the office, there's usually only a single goose to contend with as I leave or enter the compound. The open road is all about cars, of course. You can't have everything…

I've enjoyed some of the absurdity the geese bring to the workplace. There was a large male standing on one of the parking-lot light posts one day, and from about 15 feet away he mostly became an enormous, plump body parked on top of ridiculous pipe-cleaner legs and wide, flappy feet.

And Monday? Two of them were on the roof over the doorway, and had somehow managed to park their bodies on a concrete ledge and leave their feet dangling out behind them. I've never seen that before.

But mostly, depending on where all of them nest this year, I know I may be tempted to park around the back of the building any time I'm not bringing my bike in.

And I might be wishing that the property manager would consider goose deterrents, though it's a large area and they're hard to keep away. Plus, if you want to scare off geese with fake 'predator' animals, the only real recommendation is to use decoy swans.

From a corporate standpoint, I can see how festooning a roof with plastic swans might not come off as entirely professional…


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