Mother goose (and father goose too)
The honking of migrating Canada geese is the sound of autumn in this part of the country. As flock after flock passes by overhead, it is easy to think of the birds as having a collective identity. The Geese of Beaver Bog by Bernd Heinrich offers a fascinating, detailed look into the lives of a few individual geese – and their tales play out like a wildly dramatic soap opera.
Biologist Heinrich’s field research observed a couple pairs of Canada geese that summered near his home in rural Vermont. He relates his observations of the mating, nesting and parenting behavior of the geese. A blend of rigorous scientific field study with quirky personal anecdotes and observations, Heinrich’s book is funny and fascinating. The geese have distinct personalities and complicated relationships with one another. Incidents of mate swapping, home-stealing, violent battles and murders are tempered with descriptions of devoted parents, rearing their offspring with great diligence and sacrifice. Heinrich writes very well, weaving the information about the geese together with stories of his own family life. The author’s digressions are especially entertaining: he shares his enthusiasm for the natural world with vivid language and stories.
The Geese of Beaver Bog is a terrific read, and one that will make the sounds of the honkers flying above us even more thrilling.