Late autumn and winter aren’t necessarily my favorite seasons, but as summers are turning hotter and less bearable, I welcome the opportunity to once again feel cool enough to don warm garments. After all, one is able to take off only so many clothes in the heat, but can always add another layer when cold.
Besides sartorial considerations, the arrival of waterfowl on our local bodies of water is a reason to celebrate the frostier, darker time of year. As a general rule, many geese and ducks in the northern hemisphere breed at northern latitudes—some as far north as the Arctic—before heading south to more clement climes to pass the chillier calendar months. They come by the dozens, hundreds, and thousands and wherever they go, announce their presence with clamor and exuberance.
The honking of geese is legendary—remember Rome’s Capitoline Geese? Those geese were guarding a temple dedicated to Roman Goddess Juno on Capitoline Hill, one of Rome’s legendary seven hills, and were considered sacred themselves. During a siege by the Gauls in the 4th century BC, the geese, unlike the guard dogs who supposedly slept through the ordeal, recognized the invading Gallic forces and raised a ruckus, thereby alerting Rome’s defenders, which prevented the city from being sacked—at least on this occasion. To this day, geese are kept as guard animals as their vociferous outpourings will ring out an alarm when something is amiss in their realm.
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That geese have always been popular is reflected by the existence of countless domestic breeds which people often keep as pets, if not to discourage burglars or conquerors. I once met two domestic geese who lived in someone’s house and wore diapers for reasons I need not elaborate. Goose love taken to the next level!
While my love for geese won’t make me go out and join the group of pet goose owners, I will keep going out to look for all those geese who enliven our rivers, lakes, and ponds with their sheer numbers and antics. And while Canada and Cackling Geese are our most numerous winter visitors by far, I enjoy detecting the occasional odd goose among them. I also relish listening to their near-incessant and varied vocalizations—their honking, chattering, murmuring, baying, cackling, yelping, grunting, trumpeting, hissing, growling, babbling. In short, the entire sweeping spectrum of goose expression, from dulcet to cacophonous, all the tones that conspire to make up lovely goose music.