Hordes of geese flock around my beaver pond in spring and fall before they disperse to nest or finally get frozen out and decide to head south. Canada geese, with their white cheek patch, black necks and grey bodies, appear identical to look at. There isn’t even a difference between male and female as there is in so many other birds. While I’m sure their goose neighbours can spot facial differences and gossip about their characters, people generally cannot.
However, one pair sets itself apart so that even I can recognize them. Each year, for a number of years now, they return and pretty well immediately abandon their flock. Their favorite thing to do is stand in the pasture, all by themselves, and pass their time poking about in the grass or just watching the cars go past on the road. They choose the same place every year. Often they stay there all day. When they are done foraging, they plop themselves down and have a good long nap. One watches over the other carefully and gives alarm should anyone try to approach.
These two do not appear very social. They keep to themselves, ignoring the rest of the geese swarming noisily around the water’s edge. Even when a crowd of other geese comes into the field to pluck at the grass, this pair stays off on their own. Nor do they ever appear to raise a family. Throughout nesting season, they still show up in the field, together when one should be home watching a nest. Later, no little troop of goslings follow behind, no nearly adults fly with them to be shown this favourite spot.
Yet, year after year, those two stick together, monogamous, mated for life. Neither has a wandering eye. Perhaps they are a gay couple. Perhaps they have accepted infertility and spend their time in philosophic communion in the pleasant meadow. Perhaps, in early mating discussions, they decided against the labours of nesting and chose a life of leisure and winter touring instead. I’ll enjoy their goosey eccentricity with a summer of watching them ahead.