Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Not Quite A Bird of Paradise

Hello there, gentle reader whom I've been discourteously neglecting! How was your Easter weekend? Really? Wow!

Last I posted here, I was just getting ready to start at a new temp position; over the rest of that week I worked there two days, for a total of seven and a half hours. It had seemed a short enough term of employment when I knew it was to last until about the 20th -- and then, I realized I had completely forgotten to take both Good Friday and Easter Monday into account. There are actually two fewer work days in this arrangement than I had originally envisioned. Whoops! But, ah, well; so it goes.

Also, Saturday saw me miss both the Priestess concert and most of the climactic Leafs/Canadiens game (boy, heck of a game; rendered completely meaningless within the next day, but heck of a game regardless) because of family commitments; this too was kind of a bummer, but again, oh well. It's hard to put up any kind of ill mood when you have a big friendly dog wandering around all night.

So my weekend was best described as one of lost time and missed opportunities; then again, that's pretty much every weekend for me. When disposable income is a vaguely remembered concept of the past, going out and about holds less and less promise.

But I did run into something interesting in the past few days, as it turns out! You never know when you might run into something interesting -- and in some cases, such as this one, you wonder how it hasn't been run over yet.

After leaving work Thursday evening, I set off to the University of Manitoba; at the end of each week some fine folk gather there to play video games (fighting games are my favourite, by far, because I am dangerously violent grr snarl scary), and the call of digital combat lured me out to the ol' alma mater.

I was pulling my very old car into one of the parking lots (and quietly reflecting on how useless my degree has been so far) when my peripheral vision picked up something in the middle of the lot. I initially dismissed it as a garbage bag or something before a mental doubletake reminded me that, no, garbage bags don't have heads -- and that's when it hit me that my car was now parked twenty feet away from a reclining Canada goose.


Okay, yes, seriously.

I got out of the car and spent a couple minutes regarding this, a wild bird sitting picturesque and pristine amidst the parked cars. A couple groups of people walked by, looked at the bird with surprise as they passed, then got into their cars and left; the goose didn't even move. Didn't even humour the engine noises. Just sat.

I don't know all too much about goose behaviour, so I stopped to survey this for a second. Most of what I assume I know about geese is that they A) fly, B) travel in groups, C) don't go out of their way to interact with people and D) wouldn't like cars very much.

Is chilling in the middle of a concrete car lot by their lonesome just something geese like to do, or did the bizarre swings in temperature lately (bizarre objectively, I mean, this sort of thing being normal for a Winnipeg spring) mean this one had just decided to sit down until he had this migration thing figured out? Did this guy run into some pigeons in New York and figure "hey, why don't I move into the city and settle in"?

Follow his line of vision, here--

Oh. Well, that explained it, then; somebody had left the remains of a delicious Kaiser roll lying there. The subzero temperatures had partially hardened the bread, making the scattered pieces a bit of a chore to chew on (especially without teeth) -- but these were perfectly good pieces of bread lying here, by damn, and this dude wasn't going to leave until he had finished them.

That was what I figured, anyway. Until he stood up on his little goose feet and scurried right on up to me, a bit of bread still poking out of one side of his beak.

So we stared at each other for a couple seconds, before he opened his beak and sort of stuck his tongue out at me -- to make a quiet but tangible exhaling noise, a "hhhkkllhhh" that still didn't tell me much of anything.

Do they, uh... do they usually do that? This was my train of thought. If I don't know all too much about goose behaviour, I really don't know much at all about goose behavior specifically as regards people. I had no idea what this guy was up to; I couldn't tell if he wanted me to pet him, or if he was telling me he would eat my children, or if he intended to shake me down for a container of cream cheese, or what.

He must have figured his message wasn't getting through to me, because he decided to sit down right there not three feet away and continue staring at me.

I really wanted to pet him. Doesn't he look like he'd be really soft? I didn't try, of course; I briefly envisioned trying to explain to the nice folks at the hospital how I lost three fingers to a goose in a parking lot, and ultimately I figured the risk outweighed the reward.

I had the idea that maybe he was distressed, might want some water; he was probably thirsty, especially after the bread, and it couldn't have been easy to find something to drink when everything freezes over. (I don't know why I had this idea, except that the "hhhkkllhhh" sounded particularly dry.) I grabbed a water bottle from my car and poured some into a nearby Tim Hortons cup, to see if he wanted it; he didn't, of course, but I like to think he appreciated the gesture. He hhhkkllhhhed at me again, ignored the water, and walked back to go guard his bread stash again.

So obviously my calling in life is not going to be waterfowl psychology after all. I picked up a few pieces of the bread and tossed them to him, playing a surprisingly cohesive game of catch (he didn't catch any of them, granted, just scooped them off the ground), before I finally went inside and spent the rest of the night being really bad at fighting games.

I wish I'd had some sandwich or something to give him, because I really appreciated this little guy's outlook on life. My mental picture of most birds has always been of more skittish, fearful things -- but this dude was cool as ice the whole time, perfectly unfazed by people or cars or the complete lack of any accompanying geese. It's kind of sad, but this was the highlight of my weekend.

I can't figure out why anybody would ever want to shoot these little guys, aside from the usual fallback explanation that people are horrible. Geese are awesome. If you get the chance to meet one, I totally recommend it.

Stay tuned, gentle readers! Future posts should definitely arrive in shorter intervals!


k2 said...

My wife The Biologist thinks he was probably malnourished. Birds in cold temperatures (primarily songbirds, because they're so small) can actually die from malnutrition if they're fed bread or rice, both of which are very filling but relatively low on calories and other nutrients compared to stuff like seeds. So if that roll was the only thing he'd had for a while, he might not have been feeling so hot.

James Howard said...

Aww, poor little guy. I hope he's okay.

I'd heard that another goose was roaming around the university again this week, though, so I like to think it was the same guy just back to hang out again.