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Righteous Geese

Friday, June 1, 2007

Canada geese, depending on where in the country you make your home, can either be a blessing or a curse. In places where they've been introduced, like Ohio and Connecticut, they make real pests of themselves, camping out on golf courses, leaving big gooey bombs that stick perfectly in cleats; polluting reservoirs and overcrowding lawns. Poor things, they were never meant to be nonmigratory. It took the US Fish and Wildlife Service to decide to breed a whole bunch of a nonmigratory race of Canada goose (the Giant, Branta canadensis maximus) and then take it even a bit farther. They clipped their wings, and installed them on ponds all over the Midwest and Northeast, so we'd have resident geese to shoot whenever we wanted. Gee, it worked really well. Ask anybody in Connecticut.

The only problem with this elegant plan is that in the fall, hunters wind up preferentially shooting the declining migratory races that come in nice shootable flying vees, the Canada geese who are still earning an honest living, breeding way up north and migrating to the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf Coasts for the winter. Not many people shoot Giant Canadas except out of pure frustration, so they multiply like bunnies. Hey, we invited them...

The geese in Wisconsin looked to me like they belonged there. I'm not sure what race they were; they didn't look small and stubby-billed enough to be Richardson's, which breeds in Minnesota. But they were properly wary and wild, and they were breeding out where they ought to be breeding--in marshes and sloughs, instead of in people's front yards or on median strips.

I fooled around with automatic settings while shooting these strongly backlit geese, wading through a wet meadow. Oddly enough, the Night Portrait setting did best, with a nice, soft-focus touch. I guess the slightly longer exposure blurred it a bit, and picked up more detail in the birds. They are lovely birds, and so intelligent.

Take enough pictures, and weird stuff happens. This little family fled my approach, and for a moment both parents melded into a two-headed, hypervigilant bird. I feel like this at softball games, when I'm trying to watch Phoebe play and Liam mess around the outskirts at the same time.

Comedy turned to lyrical beauty as soon as the birds hit the water. They relaxed into grace, and so did I.
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