Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Unexpected Visitor...

Heading back to the studio...

I was trying to concentrate above the sound of geese. I kept hearing their loud territorial calls and the squeals of the defeated as they battled outside for a desirable nesting site close to where old trees overhang the river, very near the window at my desk.

It was almost impossible to focus. When a dominant goose chases a rival, he grabs a beak full of feathers - usually in a most sensitive area, at the butt, where their fragrant powder puffs are (they have a powder which is released from scent glands located there). Then the aggressor tugs until the feathers come out, and the poor victim squeals in such an agonizing way you just want to run out and try and help. But they are wild geese, and emotions and hormones are flooding their brains just now, so there is little you can do.

I was working on a difficult part of the drawing of a life-size bird, where the breast feathers merge, decrease in size and change color, in a faint diagonal pattern. Details like this are missing from photographs, you almost feel the growth as you depict it, there is a rhythm revealed if you get it right… and I kept losing it.

Just then I heard a scratching at the screen door. and turned to see a goose ”asking to come in”. One foot was raised as he tried to step through the screen, but slid down, confusing him. I opened the door and he slipped inside. Outside, the battles still raged.

It was last winter’s young from the green-banded pair, now a fully-grown teenager, just developing his neck collar, but too young to breed this year. He was still following his parents and getting chased away by them - and every other goose around. Life is tough at the bottom of the pecking order.

But he was obviously an inventive thinker. He’d already climbed up 12 steps to get to the door, as the house is built on stilts - something no other goose has ever done. I thought he would panic, so I left the door wide open. He padded in bold and curious, looking around the room, and then walked from my studio into the open door of the living room. He stopped at the floor-length window and studied outside where he could see the other geese still battling and chasing. He had a ringside view.

Returning from the front door, after looking out of the window...

After watching for a few minutes he went to the front door and looked through the screen. I opened it for him, but he turned around and came back, looking up at chairs and settee. Then he wandered towards the bedrooms, but the doors were closed. Next he came back into my studio, looking out the back door, and then back again to the living-room window. He knew his way round now, and showed no sign of leaving.

I’ve noticed before that at this age they seem to be at their most curious, and prepared to investigate things that older geese ignore. As a lone sibling, his actions were isolated. At this time in their lives, siblings being “evicted” by their parents tend to stick together.

I went back to my desk and began to work again. Here was a living model, relaxed and still. It must have been about half an hour before he left the way he had come, but instead of descending the steps he jumped to the handrail and perched for a few minutes before flying down.

It was quiet outside now. His parents had the spot they wanted and were sitting in the shade by the water. Another pair had settled under the mango tree, and the pair with three little goslings were on the lawn. Their young goslings give them immunity most of the time, the other geese rarely attack them. It does happen, though. You can see the other males trying to suppress their instinct to chase, their necks tremble and they “moan”.

He would lie low and follow the parents when they went to roost for the night. If he kept at a distance, that would be allowed.

I had a job to do when he left. He had pooped several little calling-cards over the bamboo floor and a couple on the mat. They were magenta /purple in color, full of Java plums. Luckily I’d folded the fine woven mat out of his way in time.

Note to blog readers.
Apologies for not posting for so long, we were in Washington State for 6 weeks, and since coming back I’ve been focused on getting an outdoor wetland created in a field on our property before the winter rains arrive. It’s already attracting different visitors, and I’ll post pictures soon.


~PakKaramu~ said...

Pak Karamu visiting your blog

Paula said...

Great story, Tanya. I'd like to see your painting when it's finished. As you know, geese are special to me.

Tanya said...

Thanks Paula, I remember, I often think of you, I spend so much time with geese these days, and have many drawings of them. I've been doing lots of research into world myths around them. Beautiful birds.

mary said...

Tanya, what an amazing happening! The geese clearly trust you completely. Thanks so much for posting this.