Wild Goose Haven

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Nature Magazine, September 1937

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From hunting down birds, exulting in the good shot that sent a plump duck or goose hurtling earthward, to spending long, cold hours scraping out a pond on which such birds might find sanctuary, seems quite a long step. That it was a most happy one can be vouched for by the Gebauer brothers of Manitoba.

For many years these husky lads looked forward with pleasure to the opening of the shooting season. Many a duck and goose, partridge and grouse fell to their guns. Nor had they any idea that they would ever cease to enjoy this sport.

Then one cold evening in October a gray goose lit in with the tame flock feeding in the yard. When John shut the fowl into the barn for the night the wild goose went in too. In the morning she calmly accepted the men when they came in with food, making less fuss than did the tame birds.


"Look," said John to Joe, watching her velvety black head and neck, "she wants to be friendly. I guess we're the wild ones really. If we' d only leave them alone the birds would soon be tame enough."

The flock was shut up for the winter and the gray goose stayed with them. Through the long, cold days the boys became fond of Pal, as they called her. Anxious to know more about her and her kind, they bought books to study.

One night, the chores all finished, they were sitting around the table when John slapped his book down. "Listen, fellows," excitedly looking from one to other of them, "why don't we make a pond and try to coax more geese in here? Hundreds pass over in the spring. There aren't many places around here. for them to rest. I bet they'd come to a good pond, especially if they found out it was safe."

"How're you going to scrape it out?" said Alec, the practical, "and if you do, how'll you get it filled with water?"

"We've still got that old scraper and maybe we could borrow another from Sam. It'll be good for Jupiter and the old gray to have a little work." He paused, thinking it over, then his face lit up and he turned to Joe. "You know that old Ford engine out there?" Joe nodded. "Couldn't you rig up a pump with that?"

It wasn't easy, but they did get a pond scraped out, three hundred by two hundred and forty feet. Next year when the snow melted they had a small engine fixed up and the water lying on the fields was pumped into the pond.

The boys were delighted when, near the last of March, three mallards and a pintail landed on the pond. They were successful! Eagerly they watched to see what the next arrivals would be.

Pal's honking sent them hurrying out just at dawn one April morning to see three Canada geese planing down to the water. And then, borne by the soft southern breeze, a great band of snow and blue geese landed on the nearby stubble field to rest and feed. Numbers of them made their way to the pond, flying up and over like a veritable snowstorm. The boys had never seen them so close although flocks of thousands pass over every spring, resting and feeding in Manitoba before flying on to their nesting grounds beyond the Arctic Circle and in Baffin Land. Now, however, they could easily distinguish the pure white plumage with black wing tips of the snows, and the white head and neck and darker colored bodies of the blues.

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