Oodles of goslings out for a swim
Not everything in nature appears the way you see it. I’ve said it over and over again in various ways. We see the natural world through the lens of a human and all the things that go into being a human. This is not a bad thing, but it is important to understand the lens colors the way in which we see the world. Once this is understood, we need to be willing to see it from a different perspective and try, although not easy to do, to see and think about what you are seeing from a different point of view. A natural world point of view.
This was painfully obvious to me the other day when I was photographing a pair of Canada geese that had about 35 goslings. When I first spotted the family, I thought how cool it was to see and that it would make a fun picture.
A few minutes later a gentleman, who also spotted the gobs of geese, came over and made a comment about how in all his years he had never seen one family with so many babies. He postulated about how this family of geese is most likely a record for one mother. And then he went on to make several other rather nasty and negative remarks about geese and large families in general.
When he was done berating the geese and their over-sized family, I nicely pointed out to him that there is no possible way for this one goose mother to successfully lay this many eggs. The amount of calcium need to produce this number of eggs would be physically impossible. In addition, there is no way the mother would be able to successfully incubate 30-plus eggs at the same time. Inevitably, the eggs at the bottom of the pile wouldn’t get incubated, and thus wouldn’t hatch.
After explaining the biological reasons why this mother didn’t produce and hatch all these goslings, I spent a few more minutes explaining to him that it’s very common for adult geese to temporarily adopt or babysit goslings from other adults. I’ve seen this time and time again. Sometimes, I think the young goslings just want to be with their friends for a while and therefore temporarily hang out with another family making it appear like a super family of geese.
After this, I suggested that perhaps the geese aren’t the terrible creatures as he suggested a few minutes before, and, in fact, they are actually excellent parents that care greatly for their young, and are capable of caring for not only their own goslings but for the goslings of other parents. To me, this behavior shows a superior level of compassion and caring.
It was at this point that I told him I was a wildlife biologist and have been studying wildlife for 40 years, and had seen this kind of behavior before and that, in fact, it wasn’t an uncommon behavior. No matter how much I tried to explain it to this gentleman, he couldn’t/wouldn’t see it another way. His mind was set on his opinion, and no amount of explanation would change his mind. Because he has never seen it or heard of it means it can’t be true. He shook his head and continued with his diatribe of unflattering expletives concerning the overpopulated status of the Canada goose in this country. Obviously, this guy wasn’t capable of seeing it any other way.
There are many other examples of things we see in nature and incorrectly judge these things based on our human experience and a lack of biological understanding. We tend to vilify many species that we just don’t understand. For example, bats flying into people’s hair is a mistruth that still persists. This myth usually comes from bats being trapped inside a house. They often perch high up in a corner of a room, and when a big scary person approaches them, they drop off the wall in order to gain enough airspeed to start flying, and we interpret this as the bat was swooping at them and trying to get into your hair when, in fact, it was just trying to get enough speed to fly and get away.
I could go on and on with more examples, but I think you understand my point. We people are quick to judge and then criticize. We can learn a few things from Mother Nature, simply by understanding it better. Until next time…
Stan Tekiela is an author / naturalist and wildlife photographer who travels the U.S. to study and capture images of wildlife. He can be followed on Instagram.com, Facebook.com and Twitter.com. He can be contacted via his web page at naturesmart.com.