The continuing saga of Lonesome George, astounding changes in attitudes
I suppose that for new readers, I should start this one with links back to my other posts about Lonesome George, in case they’re interested in starting at the beginning.
Other than little bit of housekeeping, I won’t keep you in suspense, here’s the first shocking photo of the day.
It seemed a bit strange to me when I first saw Lonesome George hanging out with a heron, given the history up to this point. But, when Molly the mallard wasn’t around, and the nice heron was, George would stroll the shore as the heron fished.
With summer winding down, other mallards that had been busy raising their young all summer began to visit the pond more frequently, and Molly would leave George’s side to spend more time with her own species. The other mallards would often join George and Molly, but the other mallards never got as close to George as Molly did.
As you can see, Molly still spent time with George, right at his side as she had done from when George was first injured. In fact, one morning when I stuck my head over the hill for a look-see, I saw George, and a mallard I thought was Molly…
…but the real Molly showed up to chase the interloper away!
With each passing day it was becoming less likely that Molly would be right at George’s side,and more likely that George would be hanging out with his new BFF, the nice heron. I’m not sure how keen the heron was to George hanging out near him, but the heron seemed to tolerate it well.
And so it was on the day that I shot the photo above, George and the nice heron hanging out together. The heron decided fishing wasn’t all that great, and headed up the hill to hunt rodents in the grass, with George following a few feet behind, grazing as he went.
A small flock of geese arrived, and a couple of members of the flock headed up the hill towards George and the heron, but in a move that totally surprised me, George turned on the geese and chased them back down the hill!
I know that it’s hard to see in that photo, but I was shooting all the way across the pond. The critters don’t let me know ahead of time what they are going to do, to let me get in position for good shots.
That was the first time I had seen George defend himself, or display any type of aggressive behavior towards anything, other than one time very early on, when he nipped Molly’s butt, because she was standing in his spot. That was right after he was injured, I’m sure he was in pain, and he had one spot that he always stood in at first where he could see all around him while staying somewhat hidden, and was just a few feet from the water in case he had to evade a predator. Molly just moved a foot or so, and the two of them settled down for a nap right after.
Anyway, here he was chasing off other geese, when for a month and a half, they had been pushing him around whenever any geese stopped at the pond. Little did I know at this time, it marked a complete change in the way that George interacted with other geese, I never saw him being chased by other geese again.
In fact, just a few days after that incident, a small flock of five geese arrived at the pond, and stayed there more or less continually for weeks. They didn’t just leave George alone, they seemed to welcome him into their flock.
I called them the flock of five, I have a bunch of photos of them and George together, and you can see Molly the mallard in that photo, as well as another mallard feeding.
I won’t bore you all with photos of George, Molly, and the flock of five hanging out together everyday, but it was nice to see that George now had some friends of his own species to hang out with, and the flock of five tolerated Molly well when she was around. As I said, she was spending less time with George, and more time with other mallards as summer turned to autumn.
If you’re wondering about Craig the cormorant, he was there less often as time went on, and stopped landing in the pond altogether soon after the flock of five began staying at the pond, although he will make a couple of fly by appearances in future posts.
With the flock of five around, George expanded his range quite a bit. Up until then, he was never more than a few feet from the water of the pond, unless he had been chased into the weeds by other geese or the evil heron. That’s understandable, the water would have been his safe place if any land based predators such as a fox or coyote would have come along. With other geese around, I’m sure George at least felt safer, and he would feed right with the flock of five, as long as it was within walking distance for him, of course.
All in all, life seemed pretty good for George, he still couldn’t fly, but he had food, water, and friends, and he seemed to be getting stronger, although when he did try to flap his injured wing for any reason, I didn’t hold out much hope that he would ever fly again.
With every passing day, more geese were showing up to rest at the pond. Small family flocks joined into one large flock, and as I said, I never saw George being chased by another goose after the day he had chased the two geese away from the nice heron.
Over the next few weeks, the flock of five turned into a flock of at least two hundred geese that would arrive at the pond in small flocks, and spend the majority of the daylight hours at the pond. I assume they fed in other places at night.
Now, not only wasn’t George being pushed around by the other geese, he became somewhat of a leader of the flock. This picture shows most of the flock, with Lonesome George the last goose on the far right.
A closer view of George.
When George turned to head up the hill to feed, I zoomed in on him as he gave the announcement to the rest of the flock that it was chow time. This was one of the few times that I heard George make any sounds at all. He was shaking his head as geese do, and honking to the rest of the flock as if to say “follow me”.
And most of the rest of the flock followed him up the hill to graze.
You may ask how I knew which goose was George with so many geese there, as the photos here are rather small, but he was the only goose with an injured wing, so it sometimes took me a while to pick him out of the flock, but it wasn’t impossible.
Another reason I could pick out which goose was George is that he often made it very easy for me. Even though he was welcome in the large flock, and he would often lead them to his favorite feeding spots, I would often see George leave the flock to be on his own.
I don’t know if it was because he spent so much time alone right after he was injured, or if it was because his family flock never came to the pond, or why, but Lonesome George remained Lonesome George in some respects, even with all those other geese nearby.
He would stroll along the shore watching the other geese, but seemed to enjoy being off by himself.
That’s another of my many unanswered questions, why would George leave the flock as often as he did? The flock was both safety and companionship for George, yet he would go off by himself, never far, since he couldn’t fly, but to the other side of the pond from where the flock was, just to be alone. Being a loner myself, I sort of understand, but George is a goose, not a human. I never saw any of the other geese separate themselves from the flock the way that George did. Sometimes small parts of the main flock of geese would break away and join George, but for the most part, the rest of the geese would allow George to come and go as he pleased.
Even when parts of the flock would follow George, he would often remain apart from those geese. (George is the goose to the left, up on the hill)
So George split his time between being right in the flock, and standing off to the edges, watching over the rest of the flock. Most of the time when the flock was feeding, the other geese would follow George around, or he’d be right in the middle of the flock, and very hard to pick out. One day I would get to the pond to see George surrounded by the large flock as they grazed, the next day, George may have been off by himself, usually on higher ground than the flock, watching over the area. Overall though, life seemed to be as good as it could get for an injured goose.
By this time, there was a flock of about a dozen mallards hanging out around the pond as well as all the geese. Molly spent most of her time with that flock when they were feeding, grooming, or doing any of the typical mallard activities, but once in a while she would return to George for nap time.
It was quite remarkable to see the way that the interactions between George, other geese, and herons changed over time. I think that there were many factors involved, from George getting stronger, his taking control of the pond as his territory, and the other geese becoming less territorial as the summer wound down, but hey, your guess is as good as mine about all that. Maybe George was even protecting his BFF, the nice heron, when he chased those other geese down the hill. We’ll never know for sure. I do know this, watching George this last summer taught me a lot, mostly that I know next to nothing about some things that I thought I knew.
I think that this is a good place to take another break, I am going to repeat the links to the earlier posts about Lonesome George for those people who would like to go back to the beginning.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!