For part of Hilary’s nature study this year, we’re walking the same trail once a month for twelve months. Each month, she draws or photographs the conditions of the trail. Then, she completes this log sheet:
This is a trail that we love and usually visit often, but it’s so enlightening to systematically track the changes. I picked this particular trail, because it has a bit of everything. It’s wooded, has a lake, and it has a lot of wildlife. The wildlife this time of year is predominately of the black-headed, brown-feathered, honking variety. This area is a Canadian goose nesting ground.
Now, Canadian geese are quite the polarizing topic around here. Bring up geese, and it’s like mentioning politics. Everyone has an opinion…a very strong opinion. They either are pretty much oblivious to geese or really, really don’t like geese. Mostly due to their noise and mess. I am a goose lover. I admit it. I adore hearing them honk as they fly overhead and flinging my head back to admire the V-formation. I smile to watch them feed in the open spaces. And I am head over heels in love with their babies. Very soon, this trail will be covered with family after family of fuzzy little goslings learning to swim, eat, and fly. The cuteness, oh the cuteness!
Yesterday, we got March’s walk in just under the wire. We headed out on a welcome mild day to see what’s going on at the trail and in the goose romance department. Pairs of geese everywhere. Pairs eating. Pairs yelling at eat other to stay away from their mates. Pairs yelling at each other for no apparent reason. And pairs diligently working to build nests.
We started this same study two years ago, but we didn’t make it past April. That March, we watched as the geese paired up, nested up, and laid their eggs. Then, disaster came. Our area had extensive flooding that lasted for weeks. Geese build their nests on the ground, in this case, little islands in the middle of the lake. The entire area ended up covered in water. When the water receded, we went to check on the trail. Massive, fallen trees littered the path, their roots no longer able to find support in the saturated land. Everything looked so different, and everything sounded so different. Something very distinct was missing. No geese. The nests had flooded as well, and not one single gosling hatched that spring. We kept going back to check, but there were none. A few geese stuck around for awhile, but it wasn’t long before the area was empty. One duck pair did manage to have two babies, and we watched them swim around the lake they now had to themselves. But no geese. After that, our monthly study just kind of fell away. We still visited the trail, but we lost our taste for formal study.
Hilary was extremely sad. Two years later, every time we go down this trail, she still points out one certain spot. A goose had built it’s nest very close to the trail, and we had enjoyed catching glimpses of the eggs and watching the parents sit on the nest. After the flood, we saw the remnants of that nest with no parents…and broken, abandoned eggs. Hilary still says that she thinks the babies turned out just fine. They probably just hatched early and got away from the flood in the nick of time. Hope springs, I guess.
Yesterday, as we rounded the corner to that same spot, a lump caught in my throat. In the exact same, infamous spot, a goose was carefully, diligently, and determinedly…building a nest.
Now, I don’t know for sure that this is the same goose. It might not be. But, I’m assuming it is. I’m also assuming that this is the female, because I admit I can’t tell the male and female apart in geese.
I stood there and watched her. Counseled her that this same spot, so unnervingly close to the water’s edge, probably isn’t the best place for a nest. Rejoiced with her that another year, and another chance, has come.
I thank God for the encounter with this goose. Yes, it’s an animal. An animal driven by instinct. Not like me making my decisions and facing adversity with human reasoning. But just because I’m more intelligent than this goose, it doesn’t necessarily make me all that much smarter. This goose lives it’s life exactly how God created it to live. Success or failure. Joy or sorrow. It just picks back up where it left off. Hope springs, I guess.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 70 (71): “But I will hope continually, and I will praise You yet more and more.” The setbacks, the challenges, and the regular ol’ day-in-day-out drudgery of life. We don’t praise God and hope in spite of them. They are in fact the things that should make us praise and hope in Him even more.
Lord, forgive me for the times that I fall into despair over the challenges in my life. Forgive me for losing hope. Renew in me this day the hope that springs from You. I praise You in my success. I praise You in my failure. I praise You in my sorrow. I praise You, for You are my joy. Teach me to live in the peace of complete trust in You. Teach me to live in the safety of total hope in You. Teach me to praise You yet more and more.
i love your idea for nature walk to the same place each month. I am definitely trying it next year. the geese around us make their nests within 10 feet of the water, i wonder if it is safer from predators because they can escape to the water with their babies? Or momma goose can get to the food and water without leaving her nest unattended too long/
Yes, it did spark a good discussion for us, thinking about each animal’s unique reasons for what they do, like nesting so close to the water’s edge. Seems risky, but of course God made them know what they’re doing! I felt like an old grandma scolding that goose, though. Lol
I highly recommend walking the same trail through all the seasons. Sounds so simple, but it’s fascinating.
This is such a great idea! I would love to try this beginning this summer. I know my children would really enjoy it, too.