Sunday, December 29, 2013

Geese And Ducks And Eagles, Oh My!

Merry Christmas!

Ok, I know that was a little late, but the past week has been a flurry of baking, cooking, Christmas present wrapping, gift giving and gift receiving plus all the clean up that a truly busy holiday has to offer. We've also been busy writing up a game plan for the new year. We've got a lot of house to continue working on, a business to start building back up and a family life that needs some serious focus, organization and change if we want to start living the simple kind of life we have always talked and dreamed about.

Plans for the new year include growing and preserving more of our own food, living a less "plugged in" life, being more active, being more spontaneous, parenting with time and not toys, refraining from accumulating more clutter and seeing/taking every opportunity to bless those around us. Especially when we don't want to.

Look, I'm almost thirty. And I'm really starting to see just how much time and money we are bleeding out and wasting each day by not having any sense of adventure and a tendency to live in a lackadaisical haze of homebody reclusiveness. My biggest goal for our lives, from here on out, is just to utilize our time better and be more productive humans, in all aspects of our lives. There's just so much to see, taste, hear and do before we die, and I want to pass on a sense of vitality and healthy spontaneity to my children, not fear of getting out in the world and trying something new or making something happen. I don't want them to sit and wait for good and exciting things to come to them, I want them to see the value in getting out there and making your own adventures, whether big or small.

Soooo what does that have to do with the birds mentioned in the title?

We live in a town nestled against the Mighty Mississippi. Lots of birds travel through our area as they migrate each year. However, we also have a group of geese who hang out year round. I've known about them for several years, but back when I first started to see them hanging around the boat ramps and the boat club, before I actually lived in town, there were only a few of them. They've really grown in numbers over the past few years. I used to drive down and watch them waddle around before I met The Husband, but once we had babies I did not really have the time to drive down to the town where the geese reside. I forgot about them.

Until we moved, this year. Now we live only a mile or so from the flock, which I rediscovered a couple of months ago. Since then, we've made a point of taking the kids on warmer days(above freezing) to feed the geese. And ducks. And gulls. And whatever else shows up!

According to an older gentleman we met one night(he feeds the flock corn every night), they started out as a few domestic geese who were "dumped off", but they've mixed and mingled and now they are quite the integrated flock of domestic and wild geese, plus their hybrid offspring, plus some ducks. Many of them are injured in some way or another, and many cannot really fly, thus they hang out year round. He says there isn't much for them to eat in their little hang out spot, and if people don't feed them they will starve.

I do not know how accurate that is, but they sure are fun to feed. I used to be terrified of geese. Really terrified. My previous experience with geese led me to believe they were all  just loud mouthed buttholes who would chase you down and bite you. But these birds, they've unexpectedly changed me. Some definitely are loud mouthed buttholes. I catch them nipping others in the butt with a loud honk and a short(very short) chase. There are others, though, who shyly waddle up to me, cock their heads and quietly stare at me as if you ask, "Please ma'am, may I have some more of that corn?"

Some are bossy and gossipy, others sweet and patient. Some are rude and spiteful, some are gentle and generous.

Some have no fear, and others step back and peer at you with unsure eyes if you advance towards them. Some are pushy and selfish while others wait in the back of the crowd to eat the leftovers. Each one has a personality, and it is truly delightful to watch those personalities clash and click.

Can you tell I'm in love?!

The Husband and The Kid are too. And Babycakes is quite amused by it all. Neither of the children are afraid of the large, loudly vocal flock of birds. The Kid goes right up to them to chuck corn at them, and the baby just hangs out in one of our arms, taking it all in.

Where as the geese are quite social, the ducks are rather cautious. They are always on the water when we arrive, while the geese are hanging out on shore, prepared to loudly beseech any passing cars to stop and feed them.

As soon as one of the geese spots a potential food bearer, the race is on and a mass of fluttery wings, thick bodies and sturdy beaks makes its way up the shore.

The ducks hang out in the background until they feel secure with the situation.
Eventually, a few of the more fearless ducks will begin to mingle with the geese and snatch up as much corn as they can before the rest of the flock catches on.
The big male is quite friendly, though somewhat narcissistic. He's not the brightest penny in the glass milk jug, either. On this day, he kept slipping and sliding across the ice, despite my attempts to lead him elsewhere.
These were sliding around too. I couldn't help but laugh, though I also took pity on them and we eventually just fed them separately from the others.
Goose down!
Does this snow make my butt look big?

Swiping snot. Ah, quality family time!

There are also a bunch of blackbirds hanging out right now. They like to pester the other birds. A couple of days ago, we watched one continuously pound his head into the ice for a good ten minutes. Nutty birds.


Oh and hey! We've got bald eagles right now too!


The eagles are a real treat to observe. They are so regal, so majestic. Just very strong, graceful birds. It is no wonder they are our national bird.

The last time we went to feed the birds, a couple of days ago during an unseasonably warm afternoon, we arrived to find the geese hanging out further up the shore, behind a gigantic mud pile. It took a little bit of thinking, some muddy Uggs, and a lot of coaxing and directing to get them into the water, around the mud pile and back onto the concrete where they get the most out of their food since little gets lost(like it does in the water or the mud), but we did it. So not only did we get the fun of feeding the birds with the sun warming our faces, but we had a little lesson in problem solving as well. And lessons learned in organic ways are always pretty cool, in my opinion.

Personally, I have gleaned so much creative inspiration from these trips to see the flock as well. Everything from color palettes to textures and illustration ideas are waddling through my head.

And I get a chance to recharge. Though the children and husband are always with me, there is no crying or screaming or whining or nipple pinching while we feed the birds. Just the quiet of the river, the chatter of the geese and the occasional request by The Kid for "MORE CORN!". I get some quiet time in my own head, which is in extremely short supply back at the house. We all get some fresh air, some movement and some quality time together, away from home, too.

We're buying fifty pound bags of corn, at this point, and plan to continue feeding these animals as long as we're able and they are willing. I'm excited for spring(or summer?) when I suspect babies might be making an appearance. You'll know when I know, believe me.

And I'll be sharing some of my goose inspired projects with you all too!

So, here's to a new year, full of spiritual, emotional, creative and family progress. And geese. And corn.

Lots and lots and LOTS of corn!

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