Winter is coming

I was sitting comfortably on my butt a couple of days ago, in a comfy lean-back chair, out back of the building in which my birds are housed.

The location was out of the wind, and though the temperature had dropped considerably, the sun was warm.

From the direction hidden by the barn, I could hear the contented honking of a small flock of Canada geese. They came into sight flying low over the short-cut grass of the hay field, rose slightly up over our backfield hill, and dropped out of sight. I could tell by their combined gabble that they had landed on our pond that is out of view over the southern slope.

They were not there more than a few minutes when, in an excited sound of increased gabble, they took to flight again. It sounded to me as though something had startled them. On the other hand, the flock that rose from the pond was triple the size of that which had just flown in. Could it be that they were gathering in a flock ready to fly south for the winter? Smart birds, don’t you think?

Earlier that week, on a tour from point “A” to “B” to pick up something, I had noticed on quite a number of small ponds quite a number of geese resting. Yet on the larger lake that we passed, I could not see a single goose. Could it be that they knew hunters would be lurking in the coves circling the larger waters?

Earlier in the week, flying high in the sky in the familiar “V” formation, within a two-hour period, I saw three different flocks heading in a southerly direction – which brought back faraway memories.

My father had a strong appreciation of birds. I can recall in the late fall of the year, as we worked in the fields pulling turnips or husking corn, quite often far apart, we would hear his attention-getting loud whistle. He would do this by placing two fingers between his lips and blowing. It was a feat I never conquered.

Looking in his direction, he would be pointing to the sky. His keen ears had heard the faraway calling of the geese, as the flock talked to each other, high overhead, far beyond gunshot reach. These were truly the wild geese that nested far north, not the semi-domesticated geese of today. Back then, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, these big, beautiful geese were nearing extinction. If we sighted two flocks in the same year, that was a bonus.

Not well known, and certainly not given credit for so doing, is the fact that the men who brought these big birds back to the numerous numbers of today are H.G. Mack of the Gilson Manufacturing Co., founder of the Niska Game Farm, Guelph; his farm manager, Jack Forestell; Jack Minor of the Minor Sanctuary at Kingsville; and Jack Mayo, founder of the Mayo Cancer Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who had a waterfowl sanctuary.

Though it will not ever go down in the history books of them so doing, it was my pleasure as a teenager to have associated with all four of them.

Take care, ’cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins