The Natural(ist)

tres amigos 0520
Tres amigos: these three go everywhere together, including across our driveway on a regular basis.

I hope you won’t think less of me for saying this out loud in semi-public, but: all geese look the same to me. Well, not all geese, but all geese of any given species, including whatever species it is that makes itself t’home here at Riverwalk each spring.

This shouldn’t be so hard; there’s the internet right here at hand to tell me all about these geese, but I’m going to make another confession (it is Sunday, after all): I’m just not much of a bird person.

In general, throughout my life, I had never given this any thought at all, about whether I was a bird person or not. And then one summer I hired a young teenager who was already gaining quite the reputation around town as an authentic “birder.” (He impressed Kara right up to the point where he pulled a rather typical teenage stunt, acquiring some ducks of his own but then short months later trying to fob them off on her because he wanted to go to college and didn’t have anyone to care for the ducks.)

Birds were just “there,” something to be taken for granted, outside in the trees, showing up each spring to strip the dried crabapples from my trees. Some were bigger, some were blacker . . . I knew what a robin was.

And a parrot. A man in my writing group, who was friends with friend Matt, lived with George, who would go over to Matt’s house whenever the man was on vacation. George — all I can tell you was he was green — was projected to have a lifespan of 100 years, which still impresses me. He was probably “middle-aged” when I knew him, while his owner was on the long side of that.

Kara used to have a normal home life, but that was before she went to the birds. First there were a couple chickens, then some more chickens, then a duck, then another duck, then more ducks. Now she has an entire menagerie, which for a brief period of time included an injured owl, shortly thereafter passed along to a raptor rehab facility. She even has a chicken she can put in her bike basket and ride down to work.

Several friends embraced the backyard chicken craze, but I never felt any compulsion to join them. Lynn, who in her Before Time dealt with an assortment of small farm animals, including peacocks, doesn’t mind feeding other people’s birds but doesn’t seem to want any of her own.

Good thing: we’ve now moved to a place where covenants prohibit any sort of livestock, including the pet horse I’ve always sort of wanted. Not to ride, mind you; I just like talking to them and scratching behind their ears.

But our covenants, whether they’d want to or not, can’t outlaw our annual geese migration. Although I’m not sure how much of a migration it is when they don’t actually seem to be in any hurry to move on.

In March we had a pair of these same-looking geese make themselves at home near our home. What I can’t tell you, because they really all look the same to me, is if those geese moved on and new ones arrived, or if circumstances just changed, and the two geese decided to embrace an alternative lifestyle.

Because now our pair of geese are a trio. And because I know nothing about geese, I can’t tell you if these three are all female, all male or some of each. All I can tell is that they’re a very tight threesome who can’t decide whether their favorite spot is the grassy, treeless lot to the south of us or the pond to the northwest of us.

No respecters of demanding signs, they amble right up the “private driveway” to access that pond, and then at some point they cut across the lot to the west of us to get back to the new shoots of grass south of us, coming up after our HOA president burned off last year’s grass crop.

Yesterday the three of them — hey, they’re adults; it’s not my place to judge — were lolling about on the grass when some movement farther south caught my eye. At first I thought it was Toby, the giant yellow Lab who lives over yonder, but it turned out to be the fox.

And when I say “the” fox, I probably mean “one of several,” but all foxes look pretty much alike to me too. And once again, I can’t tell you if this fox is male or female, and I hope Lynn and I aren’t causing it any undue confusion because she calls it “he” and I lean toward “she.” Assuming we’re even talking about the same fox.

At any rate, the fox was loping along, coming from over by Toby’s house toward the middle pond. I’m not sure how much attention the fox was paying, because she seemed to blunder right into two of the geese, who went on an indignant attack and chased the fox, who never really broke stride, just picked up her pace and moved in a broad circle around the two.

But then the fox spotted the third goose, and immediately turned from chasee to chaser, although the goose gave that short shrift, taking wing over the pond.

(I do find it funny that these geese, with their magic power of flight, seem to prefer walking everywhere they go.)

And then the fox loped on, obliviously coming into Oz’s sight, which would have turned the fox back into chasee if not for the glass keeping Oz safely on one side and the fox even safer on the other. Although I doubt we really have to worry: Oz can run and run and run, and he never seems to get anywhere close to the foxes he feels compelled to go after.

This morning the geese were among the spectators as a deer (here I can do a little better: this one was male) faced off against something that turned out to be “the” fox over near Toby’s house, before the buck came bounding this way and the fox set off a run west along Kokanee.

It’s no Netflix, I’ll grant you that, but it is something to see.

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